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Saturday, November 30, 2013

A day off for bitching

So on Monday, after our mad dash across the state Saturday, complete with whirlwind moving in and getting ready for the get-together on Sunday, Monday seemed like a good day to take off. It was raining anyhow, and according to a brochure we picked up, many antique dealers are closed Monday on that stretch of road. You should check it out. Here’s a link. Except you have to cut and paste it. Blogger is being an ass again.

Up until a few years ago, I had no interest whatsoever in antiques. Then my former spouse mentioned going through her parents’ crystal collection, and I was reminded that I had inherited some Carnival glass from my Aunt Lucy. I discovered it had little marks on the bottom. I discovered you could look up these marks and patterns on line. I started matching my stuff with these marks. I started realizing it was pretty! I decided I had to have more. But I am not a great shopper, not even for things I like, so this sort of thing happens no more than twice a year, max. We live near Plant City, another antique Mecca, and we vacation near Apalachicola, likewise. So occasionally we go looking for glass. It reminds me of my grandparents’ house, which is a very pleasant memory for me. And Joyce thinks some of it looks nice. Not all of it, though, as you will see, because I have also re-discovered milk glass, homely relative of Carnival glass. And we have limited space so I have to be pretty judicious about it, and have limited myself mostly to animal-themed items. And then we use it for holiday decorating at Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and so on.

So we did laundry and laid around napping and watching TV, and making sure we never climbed up the stairs to use the bathroom without taking something up or down at the same time. Now, our dogs knew nothing about stairs. They almost never see anything higher than a curb. And for their first stairs, of course, they encounter a steep, slippery flight with no means of gripping the floor whatsoever. There were marks where treads had been, I have no idea why they weren’t replaced. I can do stairs all right, but among us, I was only one at first. The little dogs learned it pretty well, trial and error. Joyce used the banister to haul herself up.

Then there was Nick. He’s 18 and while sturdy and muscular, he’s ancient. He has old bones, though no real sign of arthritis (because he's been on preventive meds for years). For his size and breeds, that works out to about 90 years old. So we blocked the stairs at the bottom and made up his bed in the kitchen. That lasted about five minutes, the length of time it took him to remove the obstacles and slowly but surely, haul his ass up there. So I went out and got his bed stairs* and we spent the next day working out how the hell to get him down. We weren’t about to let him try that on his own, and when he went up, one of us was always right behind him, although in a day or two he could just fly up them as well as the others. And he has to go out several times a night, so when I get up, I just take him out. The best way to maneuver him down the stairs was to get ahead of him, put a hand on his chest, and let gravity do the rest. Got a lot of exercise at the Horsefly. At least I could let him into the garden instead of walking him. It was so cold at night he did his business and was back upstairs in bed before I could even lock the door!

That Monday was also the day the five Great Danes arrived at the Dung Beetle for a dog show. Although the entire area was supposed to be dog-friendly, Stella isn’t, so we had to make sure none of the big dogs were out when we took ours anywhere, leashed, of course. And now, here are some of the surrounding buildings. They are not part of the cottage complex, but have their own characteristics and deserve special names, too, I think.

First, the Blow-Fly, a hideous warehouse of abandoned donations, apparently. This was right across from our back garden, and a fence had been erected on "our" property to block the view. It didn't work very well.

Next, the Millipede, directly across from our front door. A horrible, deteriorating residential row. A man who enjoyed flaunting his underwear lived over there, coming out all but naked at random times. So I did not wish to go over there to take a picture of the front of the Horsefly.

Finally, the Silverfish, kitty-corner to us at the four-way stop. This housing and a crumbling apartment house not pictured (the Ant Hill) were why we had to park in back and off the street. It was too dangerous to park down front. Another thing you can't tell from the website.

I want to emphasize the houses and grounds were beautiful, and situated away from urban blight, they would have been more than adequate. But they weren't. In fact, every diesel-operated vehicle in the town, as well as every motorcycle, would roar in and out of that four-way intersection day and night. You didn't get 15 minutes of quiet all at once, ever. The nasty buildings across the way would have rendered the fire-pit and gardens unusable if the weather had permitted, but it was cold and rainy most of the time so that was never a real issue. And this is why they say, in real estate, "Location, location, location."

* Bed stairs: a small, covered plastic staircase we schlep around so Nick can climb into all the beds he visits.

Welcome to the Horsefly

We stayed at a place in Adamstown that rented a string of cottages with cute bug-like names, like Ladybug, but to protect myself from libel, I’ll just rename them to demonstrate how we felt about our stay there. The Horsefly and Stink Bug are side by side. Here they are from the back. Why from the back? You can’t easily take a shot from the front. You’ll see why soon.

The Horsefly is on top, in gold, and the green Stink Bug is on the bottom. Notice how crowded this neighborhood is. Once again, right in the middle of town, specifically at a four-way stop. Why this matters will also become apparent later. Behind me, not pictured, is the Dung Beetle, which holds huge groups of people come for antiquing. It's beyond popular here and we really had fun, but more on that later. Back to the Horsefly.

No, wait, back further, to the Hive, which is the main building where the office is. We had to find that in order to check in. Sam got us there, all right, but the driveway was straight up into a blind lot. I got out and Joyce did it. She's very good at driving straight up. Just leans on the horn and guns it. Okay, glad I don't have to. So she gets out and heads for the office and I stay with the dogs. A minute later, she's back. "Gimme my cane. There are a lot of steps and no railings."

Since it was cool enough to leave the dogs, I went along to make sure she didn't kill herself. The place is on multiple levels with flagstones and concrete stairs and wooden stairs and the odd ramp. Okay, it's really beautifully kept, all of the properties in this little complex are gorgeous and dripping with antiques, which is very appealing, but no way of knowing you would have to be a rock climber to get in.

So we got in, and the woman, "Jane," immediately disappeared to send out the man, "Tarzan," who is very, outgoing, shall we say, loves to talk. Talk talk talk. Ramble on, expostulate, and he's nearly seven feet tall and has to duck under trees. Nice guy except he can be a little much. I started challenging him because he got on my nerves so much with his endless pushy restoration expertise, and Joyce said he didn't like it, wasn't used to that. Tough turtles. Don't try to intimidate me. I mean, maybe he wasn't even trying, he's probably just proud of all he's done with the place and wanted to make sure we were appropriately impressed , but I'm just like him; I push back.

After check-in, which was endless with paperwork, he directed us to the Horsefly and said he would meet us. I drove this time, and he came right after. That was how we learned we had to park in back and carry all our gear downhill through three levels of gardens on a rough path and steps with only one short railing. As soon as we got in the house we discovered both bedrooms and baths are on the second floor up a very steep, narrow and slippery flight of stairs. Well, we had already paid, so that was that. He helped us carry in all our stuff, all the way upstairs. Joyce, with the bad back and cane, could just about manage herself, so "Tarzan" and I schlepped back and forth for about half an hour. Once that was done, he left and we took the dogs for a long walk in the gardens.

However, we couldn't stay put because we were expecting my relatives from south Jersey the next day, and Joyce wanted to lay in some snacks and other supplies. We found a Mennonite market (has electicity) and stocked up on all kinds of local goodies, including a fresh-killed chicken which Joyce roasted that very night. If you give Joyce a kitchen, she will cook something in it. She makes complete meals of all kinds on trips, from the simplest to the most complex. We don't eat in restaurants much once she has herself a kitchen.

Next morning we got up early to make sure the place was all neat again after having moved in, which made it real handy that I was awake when my relatives started cancelling left and right. So many of them suddenly had to work at the last minute! Out of ten invited, three showed in the middle of the afternoon up by which time we had taken off our bras and left them on a chair in the living room, when they burst in the front door loaded down with goodies. Joyce grabbed her bra and took off for the kitchen to put it on while I'm standing there with mine in my hand, hugging and kissing everyone. We all pretended not to see it.

Because this house had comfortable seating and a great big TV, we could all easily chat in the living room and watch football at the same time. Each dog claimed a cousin and sat with them. It was funny. I can't show you the cousins, but here are the dogs and the nice gas fireplace which, unlike the Tsetse Fly, didn't try to kill us.

More on the amenities and surroundings in the next entry.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Transition Days

Friday was our last day, and as always it was reserved for laundry and packing. And it rained, too, which made me glad we were leaving. We had both forgotten how much it rains in the Fall in the Northeast. And we finally felt some cold and saw some frost. Our next stop was about 200 miles south and east so we hoped to see still more foliage. Following our tradition, we got on each other’s nerves and alternated between napping and dragging stuff hither and yon to pack or pre-position. Joyce was in logistics, so she knows a lot about pre-positioning. She decides everything about how to pack the van, just as I decide everything about the routes we take. And I do most of the heavy lifting and more than half the driving, but she does all the cooking.

So we got everything we could out of the Tse-Tse Fly and into Van O’White so we’d have less to do in the morning. Knowing how hard it was to get going in that place, we even bought me a six-pack of Diet Mountain Dew earlier in the week and that seemed to help. I don’t drink coffee.

Here are a couple more interior shots of the Tse-Tse Fly. You can see what I mean about lack of comfortable seating. Love our 50’s dinette set! And see Joyce's cane? Well, that's gone back into her closet. She doesn't need it in warm, flat Florida. I must say it was odd to see her using it at all. She got it once for a sprained ankle and just kept it. Good thing, too.

I forgot to mention about the previous day that we ate in a Greek restaurant in Wellsboro. Actually it was more like a diner with a page full of Greek dishes, because the people across from us were eating fried chicken. I'm sure if we had asked them, they would have said, "Greek food? Us? We don't eat Greek food!" And in that case it was their loss, because we had the gyro platter and it was excellent, as was the baklava, of course. So here's a shout out to George's, and if yoou're ever up that way, try it.

We were up and on the road at practically the crack of dawn for us: 8 AM. We had breakfast and finished packing before we left. There's no point getting up to travel in the dark; neither of us can drive at night. Even though we knew the approximate distance, thanks to Samantha, she can't figure in all our stops, so we allowed sunup to sidown, almost, to get ourselves to Adamstown, antique capital of Lancaster County. Except that we had to make so many changes, it wasn't all that tedious and we saw some great colors, but couldn't stop to take pictures lest we lose the light. So here's a shot from the parking lot of the Adamstown supermarket where we went for supplies after checking in to the Horse Fly cottage. Ignore the car. That's where I had to stand to get all the trees.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Wynken, Blynken and Nod

The rain let up again (this was Thursday) and we struggled mightily to get out of the house as usual, and felt fine after. Joyce found an ad for a rock shop 17 miles on the other side of Wellsboro, so we drove out there, and saw some of the best color of the whole trip.

And as long as it wasn't raining, we were able to go on and see the rest of the town. We started in the small park we had seen on our first visit, which made the dogs very happy.
In the parks is this really adorable fountain of Wynken, Blynken and Nod, the old nursery rhyme. And below that is the link that explains how the statue came to be in Denver and Wellsboro at the same time.


Oh, sure. NOW it lets me make a link. We also went through the kitschy old shopping district, which is that same street with the lamps down the middle, but we aren't such great shoppers, and we liked the park better, so we returned there until it was time to go home. Of all the places we saw on this trip, Wellsboro had the most charm, and the most to do no matter your interests. The people there take a lot of pride in maintaining their old buildings and repurposing them for things like the new performing arts center. It's prettty remote, but worth a visit if you're in the neighborhood..

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Rain and more rain

Well, we thought we were going to take pictures and so on in Wellsboro, but by the time we got there the clouds had moved in, so Joyce went to the supermarket while I sat in the parking lot with the dogs. Then we went back to the Tse-Tse Fly, and it rained all night. The next day was also raining, so we hung around napping, doing laundry and getting on each other’s nerves. With the dog run out back, it wasn’t so bad.

One problem we had this time, we never had before. We have very much enjoyed being disconnected from the phone, internet and TV in the past. But this time, Joyce was being driven mad by the government shutdown, not certain she was going to get her military retirement check or her social security. We tried so hard to find some news. The local paper didn’t cover national topics at all, and the radio news only covered things like feed prices and church socials. We even asked people we encountered, anywhere, and they never knew anything about anything, exactly as “I Just Work Here” demonstrates. I was doing some editing on this trip, so when we went to Wellsboro, I would upload and download and look at the headlines, but we’re talking every other day and not a lot of time to sit there reading, because when I was in McDonald’s using their wifi, Joyce was in the van minding the dogs.

By sheer coincidence, Johnny showed up unannounced on our rainy day (which means we had no bras on. This is why you should call and give folks a heads-up. If we have no plans to go out, and don't expect anyone, we don’t dress for company.) But he did know what was going on in the world and was able to update us somewhat. Anyway, later Joyce said she didn’t want to be in that situation again, isolated from current events. We’re just news junkies, I guess, after all. Had I not been working, we wouldn’t even have had those glimpses of the internet. So here’s us at the Tse-Tse Fly, which has remarkably little comfortable seating.

Why is this photo on the left? Beats the crap out of me Anyway, here's Joyce with Stella (10), Ollie (8), and Nick (18) in the Tse-Tse-Fly's only comfortable easy chair. It rocked but didn't have a leg-rest, causing some crowding.

This is Nick in the back lounge, which was too cold for Joyce, but I could sit there to read. I would hide here when she made dinner because there's no room in the kitchen for anyone but Joyce, and the size of the kitchen doesn't have anything to do with it.

This, a gas fireplace, we believe is the Tse-Tse Fly's method of making us sleepy all the time. Well, this and the extremely tight-construction and insulation of the cabin. The gas stove alone can heat the entire house, Johnny told us, and we had to close the bedroom doors to keep it cool enough to sleep. We just weren't getting enough fresh air, or so we have come to believe, because every day, once we got out of the house, we were fine. We're not all that energetic to begin with, but we can get up and get out of the house in the normal scheme of things. So now you know how the house got its special nickname.

A little sun for a change

First day since our arrival that we had real sunshine to light things up. It made everything look different.

In case I forgot to say so, it was rainy and or cloudy at least part of every other day we were there. After the usual struggle getting out of the house, wondering what the hell was wrong with us, we drove to Blackwell, very nearby, and some sort of touristy spot. The roads were a lot like the back ones we took to the “Grand Canyon,” but the trip was definitely shorter. We checked with Sam when we arrived and discovered there had NOT been a shorter or easier way this time.

Anyway, Blackwell is the town, by which I mean tiny hamlet, where the woman with the store, by which I mean the only store, didn't know what there was to do or see nearby. Given that, why do you suppose she went to all this trouble to grab our attention, seeing as how she wasn't expecting anyone? I mean, no one actually lives within sight of this store, so why even have one if there's no local attraction?
No tchotchke left behind. Click to see all the crap. We didn't buy anything.

So once we found the trailhead, we parked and used the restroom (the composting kind. Whee!) and prepared to walk the dogs. They immediately started crapping all over the place, which was fine; we were prepared for that. Not so much the overflowing trashcan. We did our best with it and started up the trail. And that's how we found out Stella doesn't like bicycles. And gee, I was so tired already!
So we took a few pictures and headed for Wellsboro again, because it was so sunny we thought we'd walk around the park, which we figured the dogs would also like. And because we took so many pictures, I'm going to do another blog entry just about that.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I just work here

I’m dedicating this entry to several of the people we encountered along the way in north central Pennsylvania. I now wish we’d met even more people because I would like to know if this thing is common in the Pennsylvania Wilds. We went out Monday night to the local tavern. We did this after calling to see if they had Monday night Football (because there was no TV or wifi in the cabin) and while the woman who answered, and turned out to be the bartender, had no idea of the time and channel, she said we could surf for it. So we went.

When we got to the tavern, the pre-game was already on two out of three TVs, so apparently they’d done this before. We ordered beer and read the menu and asked the bartender how the chili was. She said, “Oh, I don’t eat chili,” but went on to say that others seemed to like it. So that was twice the bartender didn’t know Jill Poop. We’ll return to the tavern below, but for now, I want to describe the other people we encountered in that part of the state.

One day Joyce wanted to get a case of beer, and it’s very hard to find beer in that area. It was the same in Gettysburg and Lancaster County. So we asked where to buy beer and were given the most god-awful directions, and couldn’t find it. But we at least had the name, so started asking for that. Two of the first three people, who worked right there in Wellsboro, had no idea where it was.

On another occasion, we went into a visitor’s center for info and some tourist was asking the employee about local foods, particularly a Chinese place. “Oh, I don’t eat Chinese,” she says. And again, we stopped at a country store to ask what the big attraction was in the area, a place to which Johnny had directed us. The woman had no idea. She lived there, and it was a paved hiking and biking trail that ran by her store along the river. We found out when we stumbled onto the trailhead parking lot on our own. We were just gob-smacked that so many people in that area had such limited experience. It wouldn’t be odd if one person didn’t eat Chinese, or if some out-of-towner didn’t know where the liquor store was, but only one person we asked had the answer. I was wondering how long it would take for us to return to civilization: those parts of Pennsylvania where people know something. What bugged me about the non-eaters was the way they said it, implying they were too good for this kind of food. It sounded like, “Why would you ask me such a thing? Do I look like I eat Chinese????”

Anyway, back to the tavern. They had a somewhat limited menu so we decided not to press our luck. Johnny said the food was very good, but the tavern didn’t look like the sort of place where everything wasn’t frozen and then heated in a microwave. There was no smell of food in the place at all. Cheeseburgers seemed safe, and they were fine, as was the chili. Because of the entertainment in the tavern, though, I no longer remember anything about the football game, not who played, not who won, because we left early. But I can tell you all about the locals. We parked in a lot across from the tavern and as we crossed the street, two young women came flying out, all in some uproar. They were shrieking some kind of nonsense and we flat out asked them, “Should we not go in?”

“Oh, they’re being mean to us because of our music,” one tells us. Actually they didn’t even look old enough to drink. Their problem didn’t sound like it would extend to us, so we went in.

Inside the front door were three men wearing hunting camouflage and talking about football. One man seemed more drunk than the others, and had only one arm. But I mean, it’s a bar. Nothing out of the ordinary. In the back near the booths where we sat was a couple on those uncomfortable, high teetery bar stools. I want to say clearly not married but I’m not sure why I thought that immediately except for the disparity in their dress. I did get confirmation of this from overhearing their conversation, not to mention her subsequent activities. Okay, he looked like a putz and she looked like a ho. So there you go. Those were all the locals. And no one else came in the rest of the night.

Unless you want to count the little chippies we thought had left. Within minutes they were back and ordering big sugary drinks at the bar. One had on a sequined top, like you might see at a New Year’s Eve party. They sat at the bar carrying on at one another over something I couldn’t make out, and they made several trips to the juke-box. They were in and out all night, smoking, drinking, playing music, hair-flipping and just acting silly. None of the men in the bar seemed to be available, or of interest, not to mention they were a lot older than these young things. Maybe these two were hoping for more drinkers to appear. Maybe this is something they do every blessed night. We never went back so we don’t know.

Meanwhile, in the back, by the booths, the ho is really working the putz. Her hands are all over him, whispering in his ear, sliding her legs between his. Joyce says to me, “Get a room, for crying out loud.”

They too, frequently left to smoke outside, while the chippies and the men used the front sidewalk. Sometimes they would all be gone but us, and then back in again. So we ate and the game went in the wrong direction (I do remember that much) so we decided the locals weren’t that compelling and left. And the bartender told Joyce, when she asked, that they could sell beer, but only two six-packs. So we got out of there and stuck our beer in the fridge. And that was our not-so-thrilling night on the town.

I don’t have pictures of all this, but here’s the cute little post office across the street.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We made it! The OTHER Grand Canyon!

Two or three naps into the day, we finally got our asses in gear. It was just so hard to gather the energy to move out of the cabin, and the big run out back spoiled us and the dogs rotten. Luckily everything we wanted to see was close, except elk. There are no elk within hours of there, which was not the impression I got from the Wilds of Pennsylvania site. There’s a lot they don’t tell you about most attractions, lodging, shopping and food. So we put the Grand Canyon into the Sam the GPS and off we went.

Immediately we turned off the main highway and found ourselves bumping along over dirt, gravel, crumbling blacktop – just about everything but cobblestones, not to mention one-lane bridges, the kind where you stop and blow the horn before proceeding A lot of this was accomplished in second gear. But the GPS said we were close, so we decided to keep going. Apparently Sam thought it would be more fun to send us over the top of a couple of mountains instead of the easy (but longer) way around the bottom. And she was right! This was indeed the scenic route, and because we were all alone, we could stop and take as many pictures as we wanted.

But we really had to laugh when we parked and found the lot full of cars that had obviously come up some other way. The colors in the Canyon (or Pine River Gorge) were pretty much gone by, but still pretty in spots.
We went to the gift shop through a cloud of flies, got coffee in a clud of flies, and tried to take pictures in a cloud of flies. The woman in the gift shop said it was their last hurrah. What? All year long they're plagued by flies? What died, and keeps on dying? Anyway, the last one, above, is a shot I can hardly believe I got. You know what my pictures are normally like! Yeah, that's a bird, probably a hawk. Click it and see!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Not quite to the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania yet.

What, don’t tell me you never heard of it! Neither had we, before starting our trip planning. Another reason Johnny-town was so appealing, was that it’s right next to this thing, sort of. Anyway, not a real long drive, which is always good for us and the dogs.

But wait! I have to backtrack to Gettysburg for a moment. This is what happens when you don’t review your notes before you publish an entry. So first let me say the Country Inns and Suites at Gettysburg were a huge leap up the socio-economic ladder from Red Roof Inns. I chose it because it was in Gettysburg (not at some distance, where hotels are definitely cheaper), and because I figured, for a long stay, we could do the luggage cart thing. And there were no Red Roofs within a long, long way, either. And yeah, the pool and spa always figure in. So we got there, and went in the pool and spa, and it was great. We actually went in there all three days, especially since because of the rain we couldn’t go anywhere else! So the second night we went in the spa, as I took off my cover-up, Joyce said to me, “Have you got your bathing suit on inside out?” And sure enough, I did. It’s a featureless black and I didn’t pay attention. So there it was, seams out. But not very noticeable. She told me “No one will notice. Let’s go in.”

So we got in the pool and cavorted around a while like we always do; no one else was there anyway. Eventually Joyce wanted to switch to the spa so we got in and were joined by another retired couple and chatted with them until they went swimming. This, it seemed to me, was just the right time to take off my suit and reverse it. Joyce had gone back into the pool so that meant I wouldn’t have to argue with her. And the spa is all bubbly so you can’t see anything in there anyway.

I got the suit off, no problem. And then I turned it right side out, a bit more of a challenge because I had forgotten that those same jets that make the bubbles to hide under are strong enough to rip your suit out of your hands. Then I tried to put it on. Then another couple came in, an Eastern European couple, maybe Russian or Greek; anyway not speaking any language I recognized. Now don’t get ahead of me here; just let it play out.

So the couple had a discussion and decided to try the spa first. By this time I had tried several times to step into the suit, but forget it. A suit my size is like a sail and it just wanted to fly all over the spa without me. Then I realized I had no idea how many minutes were left on the timer. I could be exposed at any minute. I called Joyce to come back and she yells, “Why?”

Right. I’m going to tell her! I just gave her that look spouses give one another and she came and got in. Then we had to casually back me into a corner (the spa was quite huge) with her between me and them, trying to hold the suit down. Of course she’s laughing and trying to suppress that so as not to draw attention, but luckily the woman was extremely self-absorbed, ordering the man around, complaining and carrying on (you didn’t need to know their language to get the picture), so that two fat lesbians, one naked, both struggling with a big black suit in a corner of the spa, weren’t even on her radar.

Anyway, I managed to get the thing back on and we ran and jumped in the pool, overheated from all our exertions. Luckily the timer didn’t run out for several more minutes, giving the European woman something else to complain about while we all tried to mime to the man how to turn it back on. So from now on I’ll check my suit before I leave my room! Of course you would love to see pictures of this, and of course, I would love to share some with you, but there aren’t any! But here’s a link to a picture of the pool and spa, anyway. There’s a gallery of four pictures. It’s easy to click on the right one.

Of course I can't add a link, not even by following the instructions (!). So just C&P if you want to see it, and use your imagination.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Onward to Wellsboro, more or less

After three days of not seeing Gettysburg, it was time to push north again to our first weeklong rental which we'll refer to either by its nice pseudonym, "Kettle Creek" or its naughty one, "Tse-Tse Fly." And although it was finally not raining, we weren’t too pissed off because we wanted clear weather for our drive, because we know nothing of central Pennsylvania. My mom took me on vacations in the Poconos when I was a kid, or we drove straight through on the Turnpike on our way to the Midwest, but we never stopped anywhere west of Lancaster County. And the government shutdown continued, so the nice weather wouldn’t have done us any good as far as seeing the Park. Idiots.

In fact, I almost forgot something very interesting that happened because of the closure. The one day we drove around, looking at barriers and traffic cones in a downpour, we came across a local news station van and they began to wave and yell, so we stopped. Turned out they were looking for a story of folks who had traveled a long way only to be shut out of the Park. Joyce leaped at this opportunity to give the federal government a piece of her mind, and then we got to see ourselves on the local Harrisburg evening news. All I had a chance to say was, since this wasn’t our whole trip, it wasn’t entirely ruined. Joyce was very funny and did a good job, although they edited the swearing out.

Now, I say “Wellsboro, more or less” because we don’t wish to be sued for libel, so all names will now be changed to protect the blogger and her family. There are plenty of little towns within reach of Wellsboro, which is real, and our town, “Johnny-Town”, could be any of them. No one needs to know exactly which town or rental we stayed in, or who the owner is. Actually “Johnny” was extremely sweet, but just a tad too eccentric, even for us.

Maybe I should explain what the hell we were doing way up there in the Wilds of Pennsylvania, as the area is called. We were looking for leaves, elk and general scenery. I put all that into a search for dog-friendly lodging and came up with “Johnny’s” place. The leaves were supposed to turn there first, so we went there first, after which every subsequent stop would take us back south where we belong, (according to our arthritis) again. Our arthritis gets a vote on every location we ever visit, determining whether or not we return, or what time of year. So, charming as Wellsboro was, we have seen enough to satisfy our curiosity and our leaf-cravings.

So, going from Spa-Gettysburg to Wellsboro, more or less, requires so many changes of route that I didn’t even attempt to check it before telling Sam where to take us. She got us into Gettysburg via a lovely, scenic route and we hoped she would now do something similar. Sometimes we weren’t on a segment of the route for more than 500 feet when we would have to turn again, and again, and again. Some of this was due to construction, and some to the fact that except for the Turnpike, there are very few direct routes anywhere. It’s kind of like Illinois. And going up into the Wilds, you definitely leave the Interstate way behind.

But even with all that to consider and endure, we arrived quite early in the afternoon at our rental cabin, the “Tse Tse Fly,” in “Johnny-Town.” And to find out why we chose this pseudonym, you’ll just have to read on, but the weather was great and the sun was out, and here’s the cabin. Yes, that's Van O'White, out front, now 22 years old and still going strong.

A look around the Tse-Tse Fly and environs

Note: Please read "Onward to Wellsboro, more or less" before you read this one. Somehow they got published out of order and I can't figure out how to fix it. Sorry.

We had quite the wild ride getting to “Johnny-town” the previous day, and only stopped once, while lost, in a general store where Joyce picked up the bare minimum of stuff, because that was all they had. Now, how could we get lost with a GPS? By inputting the destination Johnny gave us, of course. He said the actual address wouldn’t work. So we ended up against the side of a hill, wondering what to do next. But we retraced our steps and the guy in the store knew Johnny, everyone does, and he directed us. Later on when I found out the actual street address of the Tse-Tse Fly, voila! Sam took us straight to it.

Well, imagine our surprise when on arrival at the cabin, it was RIGHT ON THE ROAD. I mean the main road through Johnny-town, where 18 wheelers scream through day and night. This is one of those things you can never tell from the internet, and the owner won’t tell you, either. Renting a house of any kind is a crap-shoot. You just have to hope for the best. So we had thought it was on a back road, up a hill, on a mountain, in a forest, something like that. But no, it’s at the edge of Johnny-town on the highway. In other words, a very dangerous place for dogs, especially Ollie, who is a door dasher. So the first thing we wanted to do was secure the place so they could get out.

The doors were wide open and the most God-awful country music was blaring. Turns out Johnny is an aficionado, as is everyone else in north central Pennsylvania. All country, all the time. We got him to shut it off so we could hear him, we said, but we never did turn on the radio in that place again except trying to find news, which is an interesting story for later. So Johnny started showing us the house and Joyce, who has the patience of a hungry hyena, interrupted and got him to show us how to take the dogs into the run, so she could inspect it first. Well, there were two ways and Johnny is a talker and he showed us both while Joyce was fuming but she finally got into the run and satisfied herself that it was secure. Then we took the dogs back there and they just loved it.

In the top picture below, you can see all three a lot bettter if you click to enlarge. The second picture just shows our 18-year old, Nick. The dark dog is Ollie and the tawny gold is Stella.
This was our reason for choosing the Tse-tse Fly to begin with: an actual dog run right off the back door. And it's huge and even had trees inside it, which you can see. While I stayed with the dogs for additional security, Johnny showed Joyce all around the tiny house and she was just appalled. At first. We grew to like it but at first, it seemed impossible. It’s not a place I would have chosen had I somehow been able to see the whole thing, but all I had was the still photos on the site and it looked okay, really.

Finally he more or less left, by which I mean he removed himself to another nearby structure, and we unloaded the van. It was truly a beautiful day and despite Joyce’s wailing about unloading I took pictures because who knew what the weather would be like tomorrow or any other day? And it was a damned good thing I did. Because after that, it rained for part of every day we were up there. We had some clear weather, too, but it wasn’t as though you could depend on it.

Reminder of code names: Johnny = pseudonym for the guy we rented our cabin from Johnny-town = pseudonym for the village where we stayed. Kettle Creek = nice pseudonym for Johnny's rental house Tse-Tse Fly = not-nice pseudonym for Johnny's rental

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Because just about all we did here was go in the spa. First of all, it just poured down rain, cold rain, about the entire time we were here. Second, the government was on its stupid, famous shutdown, and all we could see of the National Sites were from the public roads that run through, which can’t be closed. We recognized the sites of Little Round Top and Pickett’s Charge from having seen them on TV. And we could see lots of artillery and lots of graves. You can’t hide stuff that big. The only other thing was could get into was a private museum, and it had a crappy gift shop attached, where we got a magnet. That’s all we have to show for those three days, except we drove into a private cemetery by accident and there we saw our first real fall foliage.

The first night there we found a great Greek restaurant and ate leftover baklava for three days. The second day was the one we were able to drive around a little. The third we spent alternately getting drenched and drying out as we had to take the dogs out every few hours. We used the spa both days we were there, and luckily only encountered a VERY child-burdened family on our way out as they were coming in. That was one of the best things about this trip: few, if any, children anywhere. They’re in school, or at least supposed to be. We are seriously considering confining all road trips to the fall as a result. The trip as a whole was far less stressful because we were able to almost entirely avoid children. And we drove across the parking lot to TGIF, the closest thing to us, and I was totally soaked by the time I got in, since I nicely dropped Joyce off at the door. The butch always does that, as I explained to the maitre’d.

So since nothing else happened, it’s time to talk about the Garmin. For Christmas, Joyce got me a new road atlas because the old one we used in 2009 had basically fallen apart. Florida and South Dakota, especially, were a problem because we lost them. Now I love atlases and maps, and I have excellent map-reading skills (thanks to my mother, who couldn’t read a map, couldn’t follow directions, and always got us or herself lost) but as the time for this trip approached and we were trying to come up with ways to make traveling by car even possible for Joyce, who has multiple hang-ups about driving, I realized this new map was basically useless because it cut every state into several pieces with no overlap from one page to the next. So I began to campaign for a GPS and because it would spare her any map-reading and sign-finding, Joyce caved and we got it a month early and tried it out. So although I still checked the route against the Interstate page in the atlas, we relied on Sam heavily. That’s as in Samantha, the name of the robotic voice we chose to guide us. We soon learned to ignore her, argue with her and shut her in the glove compartment, but on the whole she did a good job, as later blogs will reveal. But for now, did you know that Gettysburg is way out in the middle of nowhere, as in like 30 miles from any interstate? Well, we didn’t know it, but Sam did, and she got us there without a hitch.

Note: this is the last of my pre-written blogs that I did on the road. Now it's off to the notebook to reconstruct the rest of the trip, so they will take a bit longer to do. Bear with me. I am already writing the next one.

Monday, November 4, 2013

I told you I was tired.

We had planned to go out, but we didn’t. I knew this was going to be a hard trip, and this was where it set in more than before. (Please take note that I will frequently complain about this. Things are never as simple as they seem.) We just vegetated at the hotel. Nick and I made a circuit of the grounds every hour and a half or so, but that’s the furthest any of us got. Both of us felt guilty for holding the other back, but we both needed to rest. It was a beautiful day but we just couldn’t drag ourselves out of there. We even sent out for Chinese, which wasn’t nearly as good as in South Carolina. This time the pool was warmer, but the spa was cold. We went in both of them anyway. Maybe we’ll see the Natural Arch on the way back; maybe not. Since we have so little energy now, I don’t know what we’ll be running on by the time that happens. But I do know this location is so good, we’ll be staying here again.

During our peregrinations around the grounds, which included a secluded waterfall you could barely glimpse, Nick and I met a woman with two tiny dogs. There were any number of dogs and cats in our wing, and I was glad so many were there. It underscores a need for this kind of place.

Anyway, this woman had a tiny car, the two dogs and a serious mobility problem. On top of this, she just wouldn’t shut up. She came and went several times over the course of the day, and seeing she was one of those talky types, I did my best to avoid her. But finally I saw her having some sort of problem, which I thought was with tangled dogs, but turned out to be a key card issue. Hers had apparently expired, and I had, coincidentally, locked myself out of the hotel entirely, and Joyce was napping. This woman, who is rounder and shorter than I am, declared she had to pee, so Nick and I raced off to the front end of the hotel where you can walk right in to the desk, thank God. I explained, they believed me, and I got us each a new key card. Nick and I raced back out and gave her the card. I thought that was that.

A couple of hours or so later, all five of us were touring the grounds once again. The little car, little round woman and little dogs were gone, but there was a cane on the ground. Joyce thought it was hers, until she picked it up and we realized it was too short by half. So this woman had gone off in her car without her cane. We didn’t know if she was coming back, so we took it to the desk. We were feeling real sorry for her because, unlike Joyce, she absolutely couldn’t move without her cane. Joyce only needs hers on uneven ground and stairs without railings. But she did come back, and when she thanked us, explained she always carries several. Anyway, that was our excitement for the day. And it was about all we could stand, anyway.

So here’s another picture I took the day before. Joyce is in it, but you have to squint. This was the welcome center in the tiny corner of southeastern Tennessee we drove through. They had it decorated all over, inside and out. Very appealing.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Virginia hotel jackpot

Before I move right along, I want to explain some more things we’re doing this time to make the trip easier on ourselves. I mentioned the drive-up rooms. But we are also taking a room each on this trip, with Stella and Ollie in with Joyce while Nick bunks with me. Although we originally decided this because of Joyce’s snoring, it turns out to have many other advantages I didn’t think of before. One, there’s only half as much travel crap in a room, so that each of us can have an entire surface covered with pill bottles. Our different sleeping schedules don’t matter. We like the privacy from each other, since we are jammed together in the van all day a lot of the time. The dogs don’t want the pack split up, but we still spend most of the day together, and they have adapted as they always do. They’re really better travelers than we are.

We also changed their cages. We got rid of the heavy metal cage and replaced it with a bigger, lighter one made of nylon. It’s collapsible if we need it to be. We don’t bother bringing the cages in any more, at least, not so far. We are each using one everyday suitcase, and we have an extra one for use at the long stops. No more trying to make breakfast in the rooms; it’s just too much trouble. We only packed the small cooler for the road up, and are buying more things in grocery stores. There are probably other things that aren’t occurring to me right now, but just these make the whole thing a lot less exhausting. Basically, there’s less to haul over shorter distances.

So, on to Virginia. Although this leg was almost the same length as the previous one, it took a lot less time, and was still a beautiful drive with the leaves just beginning to turn.
And when we drove up to the Red Roof Inn, I realized I had made a mistake: it didn’t have the drive-up, motel-style entrances. What an idiot! But they saved me from myself and put us on the first floor near the back door where we only needed to make up one cart-load of gear, and it was very easy for me and Nick to get in and out at night. Best of all, there were a pool and spa. And now it was cool enough to leave the dogs in the car, so we could eat in a restaurant. As soon as the sun was low enough to be sure we could park completely in the shade with the windows cracked, we skedaddled next door to the Cracker Barrel. So we planned to spend the next day driving around the countryside the way we had in South Carolina. After dinner we tried the pool and spa. Pool too cold. But we watched the sunset from the spa which was a great way to end the day, and it helped Joyce’s back, too.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

It’s different in South Carolina

I started this three days ago, typed two sentences, and somehow lost it. I hope I can still remember what’s different. For one thing, the scenery, right? It’s more rural and empty, which is good! We drove around Atlanta (Frequently mispronounced “Ick-lanta” for reasons that escape me. I have also heard “Ick-lantic Ocean.” Anyone know why?) This was pure hell for Joyce because of the traffic, and she spent most of that leg lying down in her seat. We really only swung around the southeastern corner, so it wasn’t that bad. For me, anyway, and I’m sure the kids didn’t care. It was a fairly short drive to our Red Roof Inn in Greenville, which is the sort of place we would never stay in, and neither should you, whoever you are. It’s seedy and run-down despite being “newly renovated” and attracts the most unsavory-looking clientele who are characterized primarily by smoking and toothlessness. There were biker types and people congregated in little groups, smoking, all over the place. That was another difference between South Carolina and Georgia: poverty. You could see it and feel it everywhere. I’m sure there were drug deals going down, and my room was next to a bunch of characters who looked questionable enough that I took the gun to my room. We keep it hidden in a case in a canvas bag for more safety and security. However, everyone was quiet and we slept great! So go figure.

The motel had absolutely nothing in the way of amenities, not even a coin laundry, and the wifi didn’t work again, but I knew that was a problem with my computer and not the property, so I called the local geek squad, and they came right out and fixed it on Sunday morning. It was an internal command I didn’t know how to give. Since I’m working this trip, it’s at least a tax write-off.

Now, while I waited at the motel for the geek, Joyce went off in search of McDonalds’ for breakfast sausage biscuits, the only reason we ever go there, and had an adventure of her own. While she was standing in line, a bra fell out of her shirt. Not her bra, mine. We had rinsed them out and hung them to dry in her room the night before, and she stuck it up under her shirt to carry it down to my room, but then she forgot about it. Until McDonalds’. While she was standing in line, the bra fell out on the floor without her realizing it. So the man behind her saw it and asked if it was hers, and since it wasn’t, she had to say no, but she knew whose it was, she said, and picked it up. By this time they had reached the counter and Joyce was trying to explain but the clerk said, “Please! I don’t wanna know!” but she gave Joyce a plastic bag for it anyway.

After the computer was fixed, we took the kids for a nice ride. And here are pictures of the pretty lake, probably High Falls Lake County Park, where we stopped. Also where some apparently completely crazy people were holding a Newfoundland (dog) Rescue demonstration. There was just so much screaming from the people, not the dogs, giving commands from the shore and small boats. Luckily we were able to find a nice place far enough away that they didn’t bother us much. The dogs had a good sniff, poop and pee, and we just enjoyed the (mostly) peace and quiet.

The previous evening we had sent out for Chinese, and even in that weird little spot, it was excellent. That was the third surprise along with the quiet at night and the computer geeks. The second night there we had so much Chinese stuff left over, we just got a Subway footlong, and ate it all in stages while drinking beer and watching football in one of our ratty rooms. And despite being wrong about the behavior of the clientele, and the quiet nights, we were glad to leave. And you can be sure we were the only ones at either place so far picking up shit, either. When I arrive at a pet walk area, it’s always disgusting, but we keep picking up after them all the same. So if you walk your dog anywhere and don’t pick up, you’re worse than a pig, because pigs are clean.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Yet another road trip from hell begins!

(Note: The actual dates for this trip were October 2 - 30, 2013)

Last April we went up to the Panhandle for three weeks. After we got home, Joyce said she really wanted to do a Fall leaf peep, so we began very slowly planning for that, and in the intervening 18 months or so, we only went away for a couple of weekends, in order to pay for this month-long extravaganza. In addition, it’s good to remember we haven’t gone on any road trips since 2009 because, in my opinion, that was a disaster. It had its bright moments, but not enough to balance the anger, frustration and exhaustion. Joyce said we would never go as long as seven weeks again. So that’s how we chose Pennsylvania; a week up, two weeks in two different locations, and a week back.

So, fine. Eventually the day rolls around, which was yesterday, and I am in a terrible depression, remembering the last time. I’m sure we’ll never get ready, and I’m sure even if we do, it’s gonna be a disaster. I had to be dragged, almost kicking and screaming, to the van. I am thinking I would rather have a colonoscopy, go shopping for clothes, or go to jail. But nothing of the sort intervened, and we set out for Macon, which is as far as we can make it in a day with three dogs, small bladders, and one person who hates driving, but hates riding even worse. On the way we saw a giant cow, but not much else. When you live in central Florida, you drive a full day before getting to see anything you haven’t seen before. I am sure the cow was new. It was very shiny.

Note how out of focus it is. That gets better in later pictures.

One thing worth mentioning happened while we were still in Florida, We stopped at McDonalds’ for coffee, to walk the dogs, to walk ourselves, and to change drivers. We take turns going in while the other minds the dogs. The dog walk area was sort of marshy and I suddenly found my legs covered with mosquitoes. I brushed some off and killed the rest while walking away, but they persisted. I can’t get the dogs into their carriers without help (two go in one and that requires four hands) so I piled all three dogs in the passenger seat, ran around and jumped in the driver’s side and turned the air on. But wait! Ollie had made a deposit and I couldn’t bring the shitbag in with me, so I threw it on the roof. Joyce came out, found us all crammed in front, and helped me untangle and reload. Then we cleverly drove off with the shitbag still on the roof. Luckily I remembered it before we got out of the lot, so we stopped for Joyce to retrieve it and throw it away.

Last road trip, one of the worst things was all the hauling of dogs, luggage and miscellaneous crap. So we decided this time we would stay only in hotels where you drive right up to the door of your room. These used to be called “motels” but have gone out of style and favor because everyone but us seems to want inside entry for security. We bring our own security, and there’s no other chain we know of that has this feature plus free pets but Red Roof Inn. So way back when, I made all the reservations for the trip north at these places, but not for coming back, because we just didn’t know how long it would take, In Pennsylvania, we rented a couple of houses, but that’s not important right now. What matters is, Red Roof Inn is not a top of the line, or even a middle of the line, chain because of, for starters, these convenient entrances. As Joyce has observed, if you want this layout, you give up everything else.

See, I thought it would be basics. I didn’t think it would make jail look good (Yes, I’ve been so I have the creds to talk about jail all I want. Had the colonoscopy and the clothes shopping, too.) But no. It was more like, “Bring your own basics. We will provide a smoke-scented (marked “Non-smoking”) empty room and bath. Ya’ll have a good time, now!” You know Murphy’s Law, right, where anything that can go wrong, will? Well, what about when even things that can’t happen go wrong? So now maybe you’re getting the picture.

Red Roof Inn has a rule (I know: for whom? Why bother?) that dogs may not be left unattended. This is part of the trade-off for free pets. Fine, so that means delivery or take-out, no eating in restaurants. Now, wouldn’t it be good idea to have a list of restaurants that deliver in a place like that? That would be considered frill by Red Roof, I assure you. Luckily, there was a young woman who knew the number for Papa John’s. This poor woman was apparently the only living human working there. If you needed something, she did it. She gave us the air freshener that Joyce used to make my room habitable by bedtime. I think she may also run the local volunteer fire department. So dinner was pizza, and that was okay with all of us. And before I quit for the night, a day late, let me just say we have since discovered that the Macon Red Roof was a “deluxe” accommodation by their standards. Given what we know now, we would actually return there. But I don’t want to reveal everything at once. It’s more fun if the suspense builds. Note: The driver’s side window won’t roll down anymore, and I broke my watchband.