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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wait! One more thing: lessons learned

I knew I'd forget something. Happens all the time.

Especially for my child-free friends, DO NOT travel when school is out. This trip was so easy compared to driving out West to Mount Rushmore in the late spring. Even though I was sick and tired, it was easier than constantly dueling with entitled parents and their brats. I think we saw, like, four kids, and interacted with none of them, and therefore, not with their breeders either. Fall is great and probably early spring. We will not travel to child-centric destinations any more in general, but certainly not in summer. Other good alternatives are cruises for adults only, such as, but not limited to, Olivia Vacations, which are for women over 18 only. Check out

We liked the convenience of Red Roof Inns, for the most part, but the diceiness (Is that a word?) of their clientele and run-down condition of many of their properties makes us shy from using them again. What we figured out to do, however, is call any hotel we're interested in, in advance, to make sure pet families are housed on the first floor reasonably close to the back door. We can easily manage one cartload of crap now that we've greatly cut down on all the stuff we drag with us. Another option is to go to an area and look at some hotels before checking in, to see if they accept pets, have a drive-up arrangement, and have vacancies. But we really don't like to be quite that spontaneous. especially Joyce! So we will be taking the middle path unless we already know about a good Red Roof Inn, like Brunswick or Troutville. We seriously wish MOTELS would start a loose association and web-site of their own so we can find those drive-ups in advance. I once suggested to that they show entry arrangements for all hotels, but they blew me off. We don't reserve through them anymore, anyway. We have been quite disappointed with their responses to our concerns in the past, and they want all the money up front. Use them to locate hotels; we still do, but then go to the site for that hotel, or its chain.

As for private rentals, if you've read this blog at all (previous trips included), you know they run the gamut, and seem to have few, if any regulations. So if you spot a place you like, and can't get all the info you need from the site, call them, armed with a list of questions about things they don't come right out and show you, like how narrow a bathroom is, or what the entry to the building is like (stairs, railings, loose stones, etc.) Ask about specific things that are important to YOU, like if the ice-maker works, or if they provide dishwasher detergent. It may be they can fix a lot of stuff before you arrive, that they just didn't think of before.

Finally, if you're not used to having someone up in your face all day, or you're a loner, private person, bad sleeper, whatever, consider going the one adult per room route. You can hang out together as much or as little as you want, and your routines and personal stuff don't crowd either of you. I'm just saying, I think it had more to do with the success of the trip than just saving me from her snoring, and her from my bitching. We each got all the sleep we neeeded, that's for sure.

So as I said in my previous entry, this blog will return in the spring when I get back from the Philippines. We are going on a battlefield tour of the Bataan Peninsula to see where my Uncle Karl fought, was captured, and died, and to visit his grave, which the Army has just now identified for the first time in 70-plus years! And yes, they did know all along, but somehow "forgot" to tell anyone. Joyce will stay home with the dogs, but I will go with my aunt and cousins. Should be quite the adventure!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Road Rash

We booked in advance for two nights in Troutville because we knew the previous day would be exhausting, and it was, and Sunday, we didn’t go anywhere but the pool. We watched football all day except for walks with the dogs (enough leaves were now gone that we could see the elusive waterfall, but not photograph it) and we ordered pizza in so as not to miss any games. The next day, Monday, we drove to Columbia, South Carolina, for one night. That darned rash was bothering me something fierce. The Red Roof Inn was on a par with the other bad ones: no ice buckets, malfunctioning machines, dicey-looking clientele. But as always, the staff was very nice.

The morning we were to leave Columbia I showed Joyce my rash. Lucky for you, no pictures! She went ballistic. I told her I could stand it if I could stay on Benadryl all day, but she would have to drive. She agreed, and we drove to the Red Roof in Brunswick, Georgia, which turned out to be such a short trip that we were able to get directions and go immediately to a walk-in clinic nearby only to discover I had a bad staph infection, possibly even MRSA, but the doctor didn't want to fool with a culture because, as he said, he'd treat it the same either way. Off to a local pharmacy for heavy antibiotics, back to the hotel and collapse. Joyce took care of EVERY damned thing except Nick's meds. This Red Roof was among the best, very pretty grounds, excellent location, huge comfy rooms. Obviously it had belonged to another chain before. And best of all, the previous guest left behind four ice-cold Yuenglings in my fridge. They went well with the antibiotics and a pizza.

Next day Joyce drove us all the way home. After another round of antibiotics two weeks later, I was finally rid of the damned thing, and this was good because just a few days ago, we had a real bad scare thinking Joyce had broken her hip. Just a real bad back sprain, though, and she will recover in time. For now, I am doing EVERY damned thing to pay her back for a month spent in bed (yup, all of November).

I'm going to the Philippines in April, so when I get back from that, I'll be back here with new blogs.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holy-Days! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy New Year!

Monday, December 9, 2013

South for Troutville

Joyce insisted we get up early and get on the road because we would be going such a long way, for us: 300 miles. And we had to pack Van O’White first, which meant the night before, we put everything in the living room, just inside the front door. I would then go get the van and drive it down, park illegally right in front, and we would load. And the night before, Joyce had emptied and dried the large cooler, then filled it up with all our fragile prizes. The little cooler would suffice for those few days on the road.

Here’s the last picture from our “neighborhood.” Someone has done a hell of a job on this Victorian restoration, which we callled the Queen Bee. It would be great if the rest of the neighborhood would catch up, but we’ll never know. We had to be out no later than ten, leaving a load of laundry going in the washer, and having swept the floor, or they would charge us a fee. On TOP of their outrageous prices. So the chances we would return there are slim to none, especially since we discovered a Red Roof Inn right down the road. Just kidding, but there are plenty of other places to stay.
Fortunately every inch of the way was interstate, including a stretch of Pennsylvania Turnpike, which apparently hasn't been re-surfaced since my mother first drove on it in the 60s. Luckily that was the short part. And there were lots of great leaves but also lots of traffic and no easy or safe way to pull over for pictures. Being as tired as we were, we wanted to keep stops to a minimum so we could rest up as much as possible in our hotel every night. We got in well before dark and went to the same Cracker Barrel we ate in two weeks earlier. Guess what. On Saturday night, they're not nearly as efficient as midweek or lunch hours. I like Cracker Barrel but now I know better about weekends.

And so to bed.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Get your milk glass hens on nest while supplies last!

This was our last “real” day in the area, because we would need Friday to prepare to leave. This of course was made more difficult by the fact that we couldn’t pack any of Van O’White in advance because of the bad neighborhood. We could only put in a few things we could stand to lose, like the nylon cage and the bag of shit bags. But never mind that, Thursday was reserved entirely for antiquing. We drove to the far end this time and worked our way back. We probably went in and out of half a dozen places. I found some old Hardy Boys books (happy memories from childhood) but nothing different in vintage glass until this:

I had never seen or even heard of, black milk glass at all, let alone in one of my favorite themes. Joyce found it incredibly ugly, and wanted me to get anything but that. I had to have it! It was so shiny! And not at all as expensive as in the link. I just reminded her we have a whole year of gift-giving occasions ahead of us, never mind Christmas, and these things won't depreciate waiting in the closet. I mean, think about this: every item you buy in an antique store has lived somewhere else, possibly many other places. People sell their stuff, or die and their kids get rid of it. On and on it goes, from one home to another. If you watch American Pickers (which I can only stand for about ten minutes at a time) or any of the hoarding shows (which is why I wash everything in antibacterial soap) you know it's true. It's not like a head of lettuce; it won't go bad. Who knows where that chicken started out, or where it will end up? So for now she will live with us.

We found some other pieces for Joyce's desk and a couple of things for me and then we went back to that Park City diner for lunch again. They have the best cornbread. And everything else. Our final stop was an antique mall right across from our turn off the highway near the Horsefly. It was only open Thusday through Sunday anyway, so we couldn't have gone earlier. It was massive. I was overwhelmed. I went through maybe a dozen booths before I turned to Joyce and said, "I think I've had enough." She went back for a Carnival folded basket dish, and that was it. I felt woozy and light-headed and asked her to drive us "home."

Of course we were both very, very tired after a month on the road, and I had a peculiar rash on my arm that just wouldn't quit no matter what I put on it, and we travel with a pretty good-sized pharmacy bag for us and the kids. I was wearing long-sleeved shirts to hide it and Joyce didn't think to ask. She hadn't seen it in maybe a week. It would start to get better, then break out again. Since I have very sensitive skin, I am used to these things, and I really found it more annoying than anything else.

So we had dinner and watched some TV and went to bed. In fact, Nick and I went to bed several times! And was it ever getting cold! We had frost the last three days there, although it quickly burned off. I wanted to get out of there before mosture started freezing on the roads. Anyway, we were all ready to go home.

Friday, December 6, 2013

More wandering around the countryside.

Because that's what we came for, after all. Before I get into our activities, I want to make note of something I could have put under "Bitching," but forgot. Due to the dicey neighborhood we were in, we thought it best to carry with us anything valuable or dangerous. All this schlepping added two trips back and forth, up and down the hill out back, through the gardens, every time we went in or out. Oh, and there was a cipher lock on the back (kitchen) door of the place. "Tarzan" showed us how to work it, and when we tried, we couldn't press the buttons! We both have arthritis, and it was too much. "Tarzan" is huge and strong and didn't get it, but Joyce told him he'd better have an alternative means for us to get into, and lock out of, the house. Fortunately the stupid thing can be overridden, but that was another reason not to consider this property a primo vacation destination.

There was other stupid stuff, too, like loose throw rugs all over and bedding that didn't fit. They are so concerned making it cutesy-kitschy that they weren't very practical. The ice-machine in the fridge didn't work, and there were no ice cube trays anywhere on all their properties that they could get to! Thay had to bring bags of ice from the Hive. Next day we bought cube trays, and took them with. Normally when we rent, if we buy some little thing or other, we leave it for the next guest. But this place was high-priced and low-satisfaction. It was okay, but a rip-off all the same. Never again, of course.

So we spent that day driving around in ever-deteriorating weather conditions, only too delighted to scamper back to our warm, if inconvenient, cottage, and nap (because we were so tired all the time!) and watch TV and surf the internet. I am not doing without TV and wifi again. Learned the hard way. Oh, well. I wish I could blow it all off like we used to, but I need updates a couple times a day. Joyce can make do with once. I think I could make do with a newspaper and a decent radio station, but even those things aren’t always available. It was also at this point we ceased taking pictures, because it was so cold and gray. We decided the next day, Thursday, we would antique again, for the last time, and spend Friday doing the usual routine of laundry, packing and prepositioning. But anyway, here are the last couple of shots we took. We got to see more color on the drive south, but for reasons that will become apparent, we were no longer stopping for pictures.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Alternate day wandering

Joyce had enough of being inside so we went exploring the next day. The dogs were glad, too, because while we are prowling stores, they’re waiting in the car. It was cool enough not to have to worry about them, although we always parked in the shade just in case. So we shut off Sam and just started driving, figuring she could lead us home when we’d had enough, and that’s how we got to Blue Ball. They have “Amish” sightseeing places set up, but we wanted to see the real thing so we just went off into the countryside, which isn’t so easy around Lancaster, which is actually a small city. Nothing to see, folks, keep moving. Really, it was in one side and out the other.

What we did enjoy seeing was the big Amish working farms. They keep these places so beautifully, and their animals are so healthy and happy. If I were a farm animal, I would want to live on an Amish farm. We came around a curve and saw this one guy leading a brace of four mules backwards. They were gigantic, and just stepping along backwards all perfectly synchronized. Like they do it every day, which they undoubtedly do. And in the grocery store lot in Blue Ball, another Amish market, there was a special buggy parking area. And here’s how you can tell Mennonites from Amish: the Mennonites drive cars. Anyway these horses are amazing, just trotting along surrounded by motorized traffic.

Because we were mostly driving, and scenes changed too fast to get pictures, I have found a couple of pics of what we saw out there:


One of the weirdest things is the little children all solemn-faced in miniature grown-up clothing. Now, I don’t even like kids, but I felt sorry for these. I have watched enough Amish TV to know that not getting enough education ruins their lives, and a lot of beatings go on, and these are reasons why they go out on Rumspringe and never come back. Sometimes it's just best not to think too hard about these things, like when you travel to a third-world country and see dogs roaming the streets. But I can make donations to animal rescue organizations. There's not a lot I can do about saving the Amish children. However, from the number of Mennonites living in the same place, it looks as if they will soon save themselves. They can have religion, education, and convenience all at the same time. Otherwise, there will be no religion at all. It's pretty much up to them.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Antiquing we have gone

I’m not a big fan of verbing, but I’ll do it here for the sake of simplicity. As I said in a previous entry, until maybe a year and a half ago, I had no interest in antiques at all. Until then, I might have gone into half a dozen antique stores in my entire life. If any of you are interested in antiques, get ready to laugh at my ignorance. I don’t mind. I laugh at it myself!

So Adamstown basically consists of a highway with antique shops on it. Sometimes a restaurant or a drug store, but not much else. Many are Pennsylvania Dutch-themed, by which I mean, their names, not their contents. One was called German, and there was nothing especially Deutsch about it. Maybe they ran out of clever local-themed monikers. Or maybe they are sick of the phrase “Pennsylvania Dutch,” because these people are not Dutch at all; they are ethnically German. And they don’t sell antiques, they use them every day.

To backtrack a tiny bit, when I first ventured out in search of vintage glass, I was puzzled by the set-up of most antique stores. They are a series, sometimes a seemingly endless one, of little tiny-three sided booths. Each booth, I discovered, is owned and operated by a vendor, who pays rent and administrative costs for it. Vendors often take turns guarding the merchandise for one another. They wear big bunches of keys to open the locked glass cases and you can always locate them easily. In these stores, someone is always watching you, and I think this must have been learned over the years by trial and error, due to breakage and pilferage. A lot of old things are small and fragile. Go figure!

So when you enter you see all these rows and rows of booths all looking totally random, because they are. The closest thing to organization I saw was toys, books, and Christmas ornaments. All other booths are a hodge-podge, and except for those few specialties, what you are looking for can easily be spread from one end of the place to the other. If the venue is a single shop in Plant City, for example, you can tour around and maybe finish a twenty-vendor store in an hour. In Adamstown, they are called antique barns, malls and warehouses for a reason. You stay there all day.

Then there’s glut. So many things all jammed into one place. You don’t know where to start. We tend to go counter-clockwise, like in a supermarket. And there are rooms on rooms and plenty of two-story-buildings, and unless you want someone on your heels to show you, say, every WW II German pistol in the store, you have to look for your stuff yourself. And Joyce likes to carry stuff around and compare things, so we always have to keep track of where we got stuff, or where we left it, because if you pick something up and walk two feet, there is a vendor ready to take it up front for you. So I would check an entire store without picking anything up, until I was certain, and then I would back-track. Totally different method from Joyce. One other caveat: I stink at taking pictures of things. So if I want to show you something, I’ll find a link to one like it on line. It will save tons of bother.

We drove out and turned right, and went until we found the first open antique place. I can’t remember all the names but this wasn’t as large as some. Even so, after wandering around and around, we were ready to buy something. Here’s another funny practice: Everything is automatically ten percent off. You can try bargaining if you wish, but I am not at all good at that, so I leave it to Joyce. She always gets more off; I never do. It was in the first place that I found my slag. Slag is one of those odd things that is rare, in fact, unique, and worthless at the same time. It’s a mix of types of glass from cleaning out the molds at the end of the day, and every piece is different. By rare I mean, you will see 500 pieces of “normal” milk or Carnival glass before you see one piece of slag. Until this trip, I had never seen one. Here’s close to what I got:

Once again, I tried to make a link, and in fact the URL just disappeared, so I have to put it in as plain text.

Later in the trip I saw a few, a very few, other pieces of slag. I was glad I grabbed this when I saw it. And it has subsequently disappeared into a hidden gift cache (each of us keeps one of these for the other) to reappear on a special occasion. We shop for gifts year round. Reduces stress.

So after one store, we were both exhausted! Again! Yes, even though we were no longer staying at the Tsetse Fly, some of the effects lingered. We were both running out of energy quickly, which Joyce blamed on the stairs and I blamed on my weight. So we went to a diner we had spotted while grocery shopping. Joyce is a big fan of family-owned businesses. Did you know you can get chicken livers Italian style? Me, neither. And baklava as well.

After lunch we went to one more place, and it was so big we didn’t finish it, but decided to return later in the week. It was here Joyce started hunting for gigantic glass vases to house her kitchen tools so they are easy to reach on the counter. And interesting containers for the top of her new desk, to keep crap in. This is good! It gives me plenty of time and leeway to get what I want if she can get whatever she wants. I found this and convinced her it would make a great Valentine’s Day gift.

Joyce thought it was beautiful amd wanted me to get it then, but I wanted to see more, and these places weren't crowded. No worries, I did go back and get it, but not at this price. Holy moly, I can't justify that much for one piece. Later on, though, I got a piece she finds incredibly ugly. And I bought it anyhow, damn it! I have no intention of returning to this area in my life, let alone any time soon.

And here's a picture of foliage we took while wandering around the countryside. As usual, overcast, if not raining.