Annapolis

The 2013 Bike Trip has been great so far!  I’ve been lucky to enjoy smooth and rainfree riding through the mountains of Virginia to the the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, and also had a wonderful reunion with a treasured friend and her family.  Today I explored the history, food, and walkability of Annapolis. More photos later but for now, i hope you like this completely unedited image.

Tomorrow: Southern Maryland!

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Recipe for A Perfect Vacation!

Vacations

We all want them and in fact, we all need them.  We need time away from the routine and the worry; the “every moment scheduled” and the burdens of the job.  Some vacations are relaxing, some provide adventure.  Sometimes we are lucky enough to have a week away from all that life throws at us, and sometimes we’re just glad to have a long weekend.

I like to ask the women that I see in my office what they do during their vacation time off (I also like to ask them when they last got a babysitter and went on a date with their loved one, but that’s for another blog post).  I consider this question a critical part of the overall assessment of my patients health and well being.  I could site (but I won’t) the evidence that proves that those who take some sort of vacation have higher energy, are more relaxed and feel less burdened.  I tell my patients that they can not be expected to perform well as woman, wife, mother, employee, volunteer, daughter, sister (you get the picture) without time for self – but THATs a whole ‘nother blog post, too.   Today a patient told me that she and her husband rented a mustang convertible and drove the California coast!  How cool is that???

Many people tell me that they do the same thing each summer, such as spending a week at the beach or a long weekend in the mountains.  Others tell me that they love their “staycations”, an opportunity to save the money that might be spent on an expensive vacation.  A true staycation, according to Tightwad Tod with Consumer Reports, does not combine play and work, but I find that many people that I talk to do just that.  http://news.consumerreports.org/money/2009/05/tips-for-the-best-staycation-ever.html.  

My friends Ruth and Ralph have mastered the local vacation, what they also call the Economic Stimulus Vacation.  They like to boost the economy of some local Virginia towns by visiting shops and restaurants.  They rent cabins in state parks or put up a tent along the Crooked Road http://thecrookedroad.org/.  What a great way to learn more about the region where you live, to spend your dollars locally and to save money, too.

  

Over the years, I have tried a variety of types of vacations, from a full week at the beach with the entire family to 3 long weekends over the summer months, each one featuring a different activity in a different place.   I’ve also taken the classic “football lovers winter vacation” (aka a Bowl Game).  Ruth and I take an annual “Road Trip to a Hokie Game”.  We both love watching VT Football and we also love to explore new places.  We’ve cheered on the Hokies and enjoyed the local flavors of Atlanta, DC, Morgantown and Huntington.  This year, it’s on to Chapel Hill!

Of course nothing will compare to the time that Andrew and I took an 8 week road trip across the country.  I had just finished a four year period of working full time night shift in the ER while attending part time grad school and we’d had no vacation for four years!  Back then (1995), the Commonwealth of Virginia allowed employees to “carry over” vacation hours and because of the length of time I’d gone without taking time off, I had 8 weeks vacation time saved up.  Throughout that entire trip of camping, hiking and exploring this great country with my then 10 year old son, a check was deposited into my account.

  

1995 – Leaving Richmond, Virginia                     Rafting the Flathead, near Glacier N.P.

  

North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon  N.P.          Mesa Verde N.P. Colorado

The end of the road in Capital Reef N.P. Utah

I don’t recommend going 4 years without taking time off, but the resulting vacation for Andrew and for me was a blast!  (Go ahead … laugh at the “Mom Shorts” and the frost colored lipstick – just remember, it was 1995!).

Other truly memorable vacations have been when the entire family has traveled to the beach together, once to celebrate my parent’s 50th Anniversary, and more recently, to celebrate the fact that we all just have a really good time together!

  

2008 – 50th Anniversary Champagne Toast          The Buchwald Family 

  

2011 – Left Right Center                                                    Paddleboarding

I’ve also been lucky to have the annual GOA (Girls of August) Gathering in August.  This vacation is easy – the date and the people never change (the first weekend in August with Jan, Janet, Becky and Andrea) and the goal is to do nothing more than eat, drink, talk, laugh and play in the water.  We’ve even incorporated a nap into the weekend, with Becky of course, teaching us how it’s done!

  

  

The Birthday Gals have met for weekends in Boone NC,  Giles County VA, and also in Hungry Mother State Park.  These short getaways also offer lots of time for good conversation and laughter, delicious food and drink, hiking and sometimes, even a little dancing!

  

And then there are the weekend bike trips with friends.  This year’s had a twist:  my good friend Tim in the convertible and me on the bike – exploring new roads and a new camera.

Several years ago, a dear friend of mine, David Dehart, told me that in order to really vacate, to really let down, let go and relax, you had to take 2 full weeks away from work.   He said that by day 5 of the one week vacation, just when you are starting to relax, you realize you have to return to work in two days.

I know that not all are able to take 2 weeks off of work in a row, but for the past 3 years, I have been lucky enough to do just that.  It is a huge emotional and physical benefit to me (and therefore of benefit to my patients) and in a way, it’s a small tribute to David.  I think of him as I ride along and remember the good friend and great person he was.

After all these years of work and play, I think I have perfected how to take a vacation.  The 10 days away from work this year were a wonderful mix of time with friends and time alone.  My recipe for the perfect vacation included the following ingredients:

* 4 days playing in the Pamlico River of North Carolina with the GOAs, followed by

* 6 days of riding throughout Tennessee, exploring new places and meeting new people.

* I had a 1 day reunion with old friends, 1 day of play on the lake with Amy, and 1 day at a concert in Bristol with Radford friends.  This was followed by

* 1 day at home to do chores, unpack and get organized, and finally

* 1 day back in the office to get caught up on paperwork, charts, labs and phone calls.  It was the perfect transition back to work and seeing a full schedule of patients.

I am not quite sure when I have felt so rested and restored!  You may read this and think that this type of vacation is the last kind you would want to take.  Whatever your idea of perfect is, just be sure to do it!  We all need that time away, whether it’s in your own back yard or miles from home.

Just remember that I’ll be asking you what you did!

The 2012 Bike Trip – Tennessee: Bristol and then Home

As my friend Rick said “who knew Bristol is such a cool place?”.  Well, I’m sure many already knew, but I sure didn’t!  What a great downtown area! Many others evidently thought so too because I could not get breakfast without waiting in line for 30 minutes, and after waiting in line a lot last evening, I just couldn’t do it.

  

Bristol went all out in preparation for the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover, to the point of displaying flags from Britain, the US and Virginia on all the flagpoles.

  

Carol sent me the following link which has a nice review of last night’s concert but also provides information about Bristol.  Mumford and Sons chose communities like Bristol, that are part of  National Trust Mainstreet Communities, in which to play their stopovers, and returned nearly one percent of ticket sales to downtown revitalization.  Now I love them even more!

http://swvatoday.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/well-played-mumford-and-sons-well-played/

  

So after taking pictures of historic buildings like the Post Office, The Paramount, the train station, and the sign across the road, I headed out of town on Rt 11, towards home.

  

As I hoped I would, I came across a little place called JJ’s Downhome Diner. Tiffany (pictured in the middle; the owner is to the left) recommended the potato soup and grilled cheese and she definitely knows her business! It was just like homemade (but better than my homemade!).

 

I got to chatting with the owner who told me that the property has been sold and the building will soon be torn down so that more big box stores can be built there.  Like there aren’t enough just a mile up the road?  What is it with people having to go to chain restaurants and the same ol, same ol places all the time?  I just don’t get it!

Off my soapbox and back on the road, I stayed with Rt 11 almost all the way home.  I loved riding through communities that I only really know of from signs along the interstate.  Places like Chilhowie, Marion, Wytheville (where I just had to stop and take a picture of the pencil for those who’ve never seen it) and Pulaski.  Built in 1907, the Pulaski County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  

Throughout my travels in Tennessee, I would see old barns with pretty quilt squares painted on them, but it never failed that I saw a barn too late, or there was no place along the road, to stop.  Finally, somewhere between Marion and Wytheville, I was able to pull over and take a picture.

According to a website called American Barn Quilts ( http://www.americanbarnquilts.com/ ), the practice of painting quilt squares on barns can be traced back almost 300 years to the arrival of immigrants from the central regions of Europe; Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.  “Paint was very expensive in those days and painting a decorative and distinctive quilt pattern on their barns was a wonderful way of allowing for decoration. It also became an excellent way for travelers to find particular families or cross roads as towns people would just tell them which pattern to look for”.

I rode up and over Draper Mountain and stopped at the Drapers Valley Overlook.  The day was so clear that the views were quite remarkable – my camera and I just did not do them justice!

  

As I got closer and closer to home, I found myself riding slower and slower.  This trip was my third ride of exploration and I have found all three times that I just did not want it to end!  If I didn’t have friends and family to come home to (oh, and a job), I would just keep on going!

My Tennessee Tour has been everything I had hoped.  Tennessee has quaint small towns and interesting and fun large cities, full of history and engaging people.  I found the roads to be well maintained and the signage excellent (I rarely took a wrong turn, which is good for me!).  I was a bit disappointed in the obvious presence of the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) and hated to see so many rivers that had been dammed (of course, I am hypocrite because I used the power generated by those dams).  It is a beautiful state, full of historic buildings, excellent music, delicious food and gorgeous scenery.

But … home and job responsibilities called.  Thankfully, I was able to meet with Pam, who had ridden her bike, at the Rock House Marina for the traditional “end of the trip” beer.  It was a nice reminder that I have great friends to come home to.

As I got even closer to home, I was able to meet up briefly with several friends for a gathering at Cindy’s.  A gorgeous evening, a wonderful group of friends, and I was ready to head up my driveway and park the bike.

 

And … I finally got to meet Chayanne, the new member of the Miller/Singer family.

Total miles: 1100!  No drops, no burns, no wrecks!
Now … where shall I go next year?

The 2012 Bike Trip – Tennesse: Knoxville to Bristol/ Mumford and Sons!

What a perfect day for a bike ride and such a change from yesterday. I love the clarity that comes after a big storm – no humidity, no smog, fog or haze. Just a sky that was a gorgeous blue, with big fluffy clouds and the temperature in the 70s. I wanted to stop a million times to take pictures (but only stopped four times).

  
I very much enjoyed my brief visit with Jen, Justin and Eli. They have created quite the homestead – a pool where Eli swims like a fish and where friends gather regularly, an acre of land behind the house where Justin can fly the remote control planes that he builds (not your little ones from Toys R Us – these are amazing!), a 4 hole “golf course”, and a lovely home. These are some hard working people and so they play hard too (exactly my philosophy). If you work hard you can play hard and the result of their labor shines! One result that I benefited from was that Justin had dried my boots and that made all the difference in the ride.

 

The countryside along Rt 11W to Bristol was so pretty! Mountains, creeks, and fields of corn and hay. For those from the NRV: at different times I was reminded of Snowville, Ellett Valley, and Giles County.

I managed to get to Bristol within 30 minutes of the Radford crew. I checked in to the hotel, changed out of biking clothes (boots and jeans) and into concert clothes (shorts, flips flops, and of course, camera), and walked to the shuttle area to catch the bus to the festival grounds in historic downtown Bristol. I can not believe the ease with which I found Greg, Shelly, Dean and Beth amongst the 15,000 people at the Gentlemen of the Road Tour Stopover.  An hour or so later, we were joined by Rick and Renee.

  

  

Ever since I saw Mumford and Sons on the Grammy show (and bought their CD Sigh No More that same night), I’ve been a fan of this British indie rock/folk band (my description – if any of you have a better one, I welcome it!). The band played to a crowd that knew almost every word to every song. We alternated between jumping and dancing or swaying, arm in arm, singing all the while. An encore performance of Wagon Wheel, which brought together all the bands that had performed prior (Apache Relay, Dawes, Justin Townes Earle), was a rousing end to a truly great evening!

  

Thanks to Rick for taking pictures for me – his height made sure the pictures were not just of the backs of heads (the concert was in a parking lot and all were standing).

After waiting in line for the shuttle (Shelly, Greg and I could hardly wait another minute more as fatigue set in), we finally got to the car and began the great “post concert I am hungry food hunt”. Multiple attempts at several places led us to an after midnight Taco Bell feast.  Ah the good life 🙂

 

  

I so enjoyed this evening in Bristol with some great Radford friends.  Thanks Dean for getting the tickets.  What a show!

The 2012 Bike Trip – Tennessee: Nashville to Knoxville

How did I not meet Doris until today? After I planned my route for the day and as I was checking out, I got to chat a bit with Doris.  She told me that her title is Conference Concierge of the Scarritt Bennett Center.  I was sharing my excitement about the historic buildings throughout Nashville and Doris told me that I just had to see the Chapel. I wish I had words to describe and the talent to photograph the beauty of the interior of that building.  No longer used for church services, the Chapel was voted best place to have a wedding in Nashville.  It is truly breathtaking!

     

Doris also gave me two Scarritt Bennett magnets, each one with a picture of one of the buildings on the campus.  I’ll tell you what – it’s the people who put the finishing touches on great trips!

As I rode out of Nashville, I realized that I had just barely scratched the surface of this city.  I’ll definitely be returning!

I decided to knock out a quick 50 miles on I40 heading east, mostly to avoid multiple stop lights while getting out of town.  Traffic was not bad and I felt no un ease on that 8 lane highway.  As I had entered Nashville on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but notice a series of signs that announce the number of fatalities that have occurred on Tennessee highwasy (“please don’t be the next” it reads).  On Wednesday the sign showed the number 598; as I rode under it today it read 603. Sure makes you think …

I had planned to take 70North to start my ride to Knoxville but was having difficulty finding the access point. When I stopped to check my directions, a group of guys at the store told me that I was wrong, that it was 70E, not 70N.  I kept insisting that it should be North but they assured me it was East.  Against my better judgment, I got on 70E.

Next time I’ll trust myself and my map. I was on the wrong road.  I didn’t need to do any backtracking but the mistake did add some extra miles.  Then again, if I had not taken the wrong road, I wouldn’t have driven through the historic downtown of Watertown.  What a lovely little place … cafe, newspaper, bank, grocery store … THIS is why I stay off the interstate.  Not only do back roads make the ride prettier and more interesting, they allow for little surprises like Watertown.

       

And then there are the big surprises that occur whether you ride big roads or small ones.

I saw the storm clouds gathering and I knew that I was trying to out race them.  70N took me through tiny towns, across beautiful farm lands, over mountain passes, past horses and cows, and along constant curves.  Absolutely beautiful … even in a downpour!  I was drenched, but able to keep riding.  As the rain let up, I came through Cookeville and stopped at Moogie’s BBQ for some much needed lunch and a bit of drying off.

    

I was glad that Moogies had outside seating as I was soaked!

    

Unfortunately, once I was back on the road, the rain (and thunder and lightning) came in earnest and I was soaked to the skin. I pulled over for the first time and sat under a covered gas pump.  The owner of the place was kind to let me stay there without purchasing gas and expressed great concern over my safety.  His kindness was a bright spot in the rain.  When the storm seemed to be lightening up, I got back on the road.

     

Well, what I thought was hard rain before, became even harder and I could not even see the road.  I had to ride another 5 minutes before finding a place to pull over (again, under a covered gas pump).  My clothing and boots felt like lead and I was a bit discouraged.  I went into the gas station and called Michael, knowing he would be the right friend at the right time.  I needed his brand of “it’s all part of the deal, LD”.  Down to earth, matter of fact – “just wait it out and you’ll be fine, but call if you need anything”. I guess what I’m saying is that I needed someone who would share concern but mostly just let me know, hey this happens, be safe and smart and you’ll be fine.

    

And he was exactly right.  After about 30 minutes, the rain did let up and I was able to get back on the road to finish the trip to Knoxville.  Thankfully, I only had another 45 minutes or so to travel.  I was cold, wet and ready to be done.  Funny though, I was still able to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding countryside.  I wish I could have stopped at a few places – like Frozen Head State Park (where on earth did that name come from?), the Obed Wild and Scenic River, and Oak Ridge Laboratory – but I had to keep riding.  Hopefully I’ll get back that way again someday.

I finally arrived at the home of Jen and Justin and their daughter Eli.  How wonderful to be able to come in, strip off all the wet clothes and do a huge load of laundry.  In borrowed t-shirt and sweat pants, I was warm and comfortable.  Being able to catch up over pizza and beer made for a really nice evening and I really enjoyed having a good long chat with Jen.

Now … time to sleep.  225 miles today … not sure how many were ridden in the rain.

The 2012 Bike Trip – Tennessee: Nashville!

Debbie turned me on to the coolest place to stay in Nashville! The Scarritt Bennett Center “was organized in 1988 as a non-profit conference, retreat and educational center, committed to empowerment through cross-cultural understanding, education, creativity and spiritual renewal”.

  

That sounds like pretty heady stuff, doesn’t it? All I know is that it is perfect for the person traveling solo. $50 gets you a twin bed and a bathroom. What more could I want?

The center was initially founded in Kansas City, Missouri, and was established for the purpose of training young women missionaries. It moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1924, where it became Scarritt College for Christian Workers. Scarritt Hall, Bennett Hall, the Tower and the Chapel, known collectively as the Belle Bennett Memorial, were built between 1924- 1927 (just a little background history for you). The center is now owned by the United Methodist Women.

    

I was up early, walking the campus and of course taking a bunch of pictures! The gothic architecture and beautiful grounds made for great photo ops and a lovely morning walk.

  

Not surprisingly, I soon got hungry and decided to walk off campus in search of a local place for breakfast. I passed on Starbucks, Panera, Hardees and Bruegers before I saw it – Noshville! A Nashville institution! I sat at the counter and enjoyed an omelet while listening to Crystal (my server) tell me all about this city. She got right into my desire to find funky/fun places to visit. She also brought me a sampler of the restaurant’s famous pickles as well as one of their Black and White cookies. Evidently, when they run out, folks get a bit irritated. I can see why – shortbread cookie with a not too sweet frosting – yum!

              

After a drenching rain, with plenty of thunder and lightning, I set off to explore downtown. I was of course aware that Nashville is known for it’s music scene, but I was ignorant about it’s history and the city’s many beautiful old buildings. Nashville should advertise that more … Or perhaps they do and I just haven’t paying attention.

      

I walked the entire length of Broadway (21 blocks), even though the front desk staff warned me that these are “city blocks”. As opposed to “country blocks”? 🙂 Whatever kind of blocks they are, I sure worked off my breakfast!

I walked inside the lobby of the Union Station Hotel, the original passenger rail station, built in 1901 and now a Historic Hotel of America. It was also designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977 and is stunning. “The barrel vaulted ceiling is made of 128 pieces of stained glass” and the entire building reminds us that “railroad was once King and artistic craftsmanship was the mark of a distinction” (from the hotel history).

          

I also toured the Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ol opry for over 3o years.  How very cool to see that famous stage, and to read about the history of the building and the musicians and actors who performed there.

      

I very much enjoyed my flight of microbrews, along with the shredded pork/pineapple salsa tacos at Big River Grille. Thanks to a cooling breeze and a prime spot on the patio, I had great opportunity for people watching.

      

From there I wandered down to the river and then walked across the Shelby Street Bridge.  The bridge was originally constructed in 1909, was rehabilitated in 2003 and now is primarily a walking path across the river.

      

A visit to Buck Wild Saloon on 2nd Ave was definitely in order (mostly because Andrew seems to have picked up that nick name … can’t imagine how). There’s something fun about seeing karaoke in full swing at 4p in the afternoon. Even better was when the whole bar crowd (including me) joined in to sing Sweet Caroline at the top of it’s lungs!  I enjoyed the company of my new friend, Raynell, the bartender, who served me ice cold beer as we talked and laughed together.

   

I talked to an 18 year old girl, recently arrived from Kentucky, who is hoping to make it big in Nashville. I wonder how many young people come to this town every year with that same dream?

I met up with Debbie’s niece, Tina, for dinner at the Flying Saucer, which has a most amazing beer selection – hundreds and hundreds to choose from. The restaurant is located in the historic train station and the walls and ceilings are covered with thousands of decorative plates.

     

After dinner, we drove to the Parthenon … yep, the Parthenon.

     

Who knew that Nashville has an exact replica of the Greek Parthenon? Not Me! Originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, “this replica of the original Parthenon in Athens serves as a monument to what is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture”. It was an amazing site to see, especially against the evening sky.  Do you see me standing there?  That structure is massive and stunning to see!

What an incredible day this has been! Of course there was music and food, but the history, buildings and people were a wonderful surprise. I’m ready to get back on the bike tomorrow, but I sure have enjoyed this layover day in Nashville!  Next time, I’ll stay more than 36 hours!

The 2012 Bike Trip – Tennesse: Ocoee to Nashville

Friends have heard me say that I don’t use GPS; I use MAPS. I just love a map, and my large print map of Tennessee has been the perfect guide on this trip.

I also like to stop and ask locals for directions and for tips on good places to get a meal. What I find interesting is that a lot people don’t know the general area in which they live. I guess some just aren’t lucky enough to be able to travel far from their own county and state roads.

Yesterday, after I was given incorrect directions to a post office in Cosby, TN, I stopped to talk with an elderly gentleman sitting outside a store in that tiny little town. After confirming that I’d been told wrong, we discussed whether I should back track or head on to the next town. He looked me in the eye and said “do you just want to get it done and get it off your mind?” Well, yes I did! So back track I did and was glad of it. It’s funny how we remember the smallest of exchanges with people. He was in the right place at the right time and essentially said “just do it; don’t sweat the small stuff”.

I got to chat briefly with another gentleman today. I’d guess he has easily seen his 80th year. He was chuckling at me because I was sitting at a stoplight in Etowah,TN taking a picture of the downtown buildings on Main Street (which reminded me a bit of Radford). From car to bike, across the lane of traffic, he told me how to correctly say Etowah and wished me well on my journey. I adore these brief connections with people along the way.

Which makes me think of another thing I’ve noticed about Tennessee. Everywhere I go, I see folks chatting in groups of 2. Outside stores, walking along roads, standing in parking lots, and even through the window of a tractor through to the window of a car alongside the highway. I know … you’re probably thinking “that’s really not so interesting, Laurie”, but it’s something I keep noticing. These look to be significant conversations between the people involved – on the sidewalk, in the field, along the road. Maybe it’s just me but I like that folks are stopping to chat and connect … and not a one on a cell phone.

  

Today was a wonderful day to be on the bike and Tennessee has beautiful roads to ride on. I took 411 to the Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park. Once there, I parked the bike, got down to the river to take pictures and promptly got wet up to my calves. Yep that’s me! See a body of water / get in it. But this time I did not PLAN to get wet. Thankfully, riding the bike serves as a great dryer for boots and jeans.

  

  

      

I highly recommend riding RT 68 to Rt 70 to Rt 96, part of the Tennessee Scenic Roadway system. I saw incredible scenery – mountains, rivers, lakes, rock outcroppings, a nuclear plant – yep, a nuclear plant. It was quite the surprise to ride up on that plant, out in the middle of what seemed like no where.

  

The ride through the Cumberland Mountain area was beautiful and fun – lots of twisty roads, up and down the mountains, with the road constantly changing from 2 lanes to 4.

  

Rather than waiting to get to Nashville, I stopped in at the Bumpus HD store in Murfresboro, TN. I’m so glad I did! Everyone there was great! They took the bike right in, found the problem (pinched fuses and a couple other things) and convinced me I needed a new tire (something I already knew). One of the employees (an older gentleman – hmmm – I see a pattern) said “if you were my girlfriend, I’d want you to have a new tire”. I almost laughed – I thought he was going to say if you were my daughter I’d want you to have a new tire!! Yes, it was an unexpected expense, but I feel better having the problems fixed. Phil really checked the bike well and came out and talked with me about all that he’d found and what needed to be done. The guys at that store could not have been more helpful and they were fun to hang out with, too. They even helped me figure out how to get into the city while avoiding rush hour traffic.

After dinner at a local sports pub (again, average food but the Molson Golden was ice cold and hit the spot), I rode on into Nashville. The view of the skyline from the highway has me excited and ready to explore!

While in Nashville, I am staying at the Skerritt/Bennett Center (details tomorrow).  For $50 bucks, I get a bed and a bathroom – how great is that?  The gothic style buildings are gorgeous and I’ve got the camera battery charging in anticipation of some early morning photography!

I rode 250 miles in this jam packed day! I am truly, happily exhausted!