Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Virginia: A Weekend.

In which I reveal just how much of a wine, food, and yarn snob I have become, teach a great group of knitters, and manage to have the best day in spite of sunburn and heatstroke.
This is how much junk a woman writing a book thinks she needs to bring on a working weekend. Go ahead and guess how many of these bags actually were used while we were there.

I know I am going to forget some important things, but I need to get the basics down before I forget! We left home Thursday morning and drove to Front Royal, VA. I had wanted to stop somewhere in PA to spend some time - there are so many roadside attractions and factory tours scattered in Pennsylvania. In the end I narrowed it down to the Utz chip factory in Hanover. I have a thing about factory tours breaking up long drives. They get you up and moving after hours of sitting. You often learn things you did not know. And if you're very lucky, you get a snack thrown in for good measure, like at Cabot and Ben & Jerry's. This was my plan. Drive a lot, stop in Hanover, and finish our journey to Front Royal.

Somewhere along route 81 in Pennsylvania, however, we entered a dangerous time-space vortex. Too-frequent stops combined with heavy traffic resulted in us missing Utz by minutes. This was made up for by the amazing beauty of the Blue Ridge. Truly, I could live here and be happy. We headed on to Front Royal and checked into our hotel, a Hampton Inn. Mister Wonderful loves a good Hampton Inn, and even the not so good ones. This is a good one. We asked at the counter for some ideas on where to get dinner and headed out. We chose the Main Street Mill in downtown Front Royal. What, I thought, could be better than a local restaurant in an old feed mill?
A lot could have been better. The last time we were in this area which was three years ago we ate at Jalisco, a Mexican place in town, and I wish we'd gone back there. The food at the Main Street Mill was indifferent; the sort of standard if a bit unhealthy fare that fills you up and doesn't make you sad. But the smell of cigarette smoke was overwhelming. It carried into the side of the place where smoking is not allowed, and really made the meal unpleasant. You know that feeling when you've been on the road all day, and you're hungry, and the idea of getting back in the car and moving to another location just overwhelms you? That's where I was. So we stayed. I wish we hadn't. I did find a pamphlet describing a walking tour of Front Royal, though, which gave me an idea. I am notorious for early rising when traveling, like the sound of the chickens in my ears is there promptly at 5 even if the birds are miles away. I decided that we should get up early and walk the 2 mile tour before heading to our next destination.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped for adult libations and a bit of a snack and I saw a thing that I haven't seen since Katy's 80's birthday party...which in no way suggests how old Katy is or might be, or may have been.
 Right there in the cooler, a whole shelf of it in a wide range of flavors and everything! Mr. Wonderful chose Corona instead. Good decision. Am I the only person who remembers just haw bad these things are? Like festered fruit punch? Apparently I am.

In the end, I slept a bit more than intended and we walked a bit less. On our slightly altered early morning tour we saw the Millennium Sundial, erected in December 1999.
Notice anything...unusual about this sundial? If you do, please share it in the comments section.
We also saw this really amazing log house.
 Built in 1788, the Petty-Sumption house amazed me in it's longevity. For an old loggie with big thick chinking, that's a long life!

We stopped at the Daily Grind for some coffee (me) and some weird lemon frozen thing (him). Loved this cafe and wanted to move in. They had chairs and tables, some really nice window-seats, tables out side and even a meeting room in back! I did a bit of shopping at the Blue Ridge Hospice Thrift Shop on Main Street. I love thrift shops of all shapes and sizes, and I really love hospice work. In order for them to be there when we need them, they need support. Shopping in their thrift shops is a great way to give them that support and save yourself a dime or two. This shop even has a "man room" with "fishing poles and stuff". Perfect.

Mister Wonderful was not distracted for long by the "man room", so we headed on to our next destination - a visit with Jenn Tepper-Heverly at her lovely home to talk about her amazing Spirit Trail Fiberworks yarns for inclusion in the new book. Dyers have my awe and respect. What they do astounds me. It's not just the color. It's about choosing the base yarn that those colors will inhabit, then choosing the colors, and then - most importantly - replicating those colors over and over again with some level of standardization. I just couldn't do it. But Jenn does and she does it so very beautifully. I cannot say enough about these yarns. The base yarns are just amazing and the color is perfection. Might I particularly enable - I mean, direct your attention to Birte, which must be owned (I am currently swatching it and I am so in love), and also Penelope and Sunna either of  whom I would have an affair with. Dyers are also generous people. You'll find Spirit Trail yarns in the new book, and in another little project I dreamed up on my way home.

Jenn took us to the lovely Gadino Cellars and introduced us to Stephanie and Derek their amazing wines. Well, really Stephanie's parents' wines. Someone, somewhere other than Massachusetts should join their club and tell me all about it! I loved the meritage Imagine, and the Cabernet Sauvignon. I wish Massachusetts allowed shipping of wine. I want to be a Persono Molto Importante. We left the area happy and contented, with wine in the back seat protected from the sun by yarn and water bottles and buried under a mound of suitcase and headed for the coast. I anticipated that we'd arrive in Newport News at around 5:00pm. What I had not anticipated is the desire of locals and tourists to head for the coast for Father's Day weekend. We rolled into our hotel lobby with just enough time for me to brush my hair and teeth in the lobby restroom before heading to Coordinated Colors in Yorktown, Virginia. I'd promised to be on-hand for 7pm for a book signing and I arrived just in time! And look at what greeted me?
A shop sign with my name on it - my very first one! I signed some books and met some great knitters at Sherri's shop, and spent some time petting her adorable chocolate lab DeeDee, and then we headed off for dinner after a very tiring day in the car. I wanted to be well rested for the morning's class.

I got up early the next morning and Mr W dropped me at the shop before heading off to find a good bike ride.This made me a little edgy - love the man but really navigation is not his strong suit, and the temperatures were predicted to be around 100. But look at my distraction (there's more distraction that got cut off on my left and right, but my phone is only so wide!) -
 These were a great group of students. I know I say that a lot, but really they were. We had a good day, I think, and I hope everyone left happy!

Gene arrived promptly at 5pm to pick me up - one thing about traveling with him, there's no hanging around, no dawdle or delay, no chit-chat. He's pretty punctual. I said my good-byes and we headed out to find food. The other thing about traveling with him - I'd had a late lunch, but he'd had a bike ride. Food isn't an option. I "made" him get Thai, which I love and he does not, but dislikes less than Indian which I also love and he does not. (see if you can make sense of that.). He ate it and did not die. I ate it and was happy! We retired to the hotel in Newport News for one last night before heading on to Chincoteague.

The next morning we got up early and headed up toward the island on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. I love this thing. I think it's the feeling of being sort of in the middle of the ocean but not that I like. And I know it's a bay but it's still cool. And I love the history of it. The entire project, including the expansion from 2 to 4 lanes that opened in 1999, has been done through the sale of revenue bonds. No federal, state or local money has been used. I think that's amazing.

We headed up the Delmarva peninsula and I was sadly reminded that not all chickens get to be spoiled like mine before they are turned into freezer-stuffing. We passed a large Perdue plant. gene commented that he didn't notice a smell. We saw grower houses, the ones with the blinds and the big fans, five or six at a time in rows. A couple were open to the light because the birds had already made their journey to the plant and to the supermarket shelf. We saw this Perdue truck, used for hauling live birds to slaughter, making it's way north, devoid of chickens.
Gene saw some going south fully loaded, but I missed it. I've seen them before and I am glad I missed it. Then we came to the Tyson plant, and oh man the smell. It was awful. I wondered what the locals think - how can you ever get used to that smell? Do you ever get used to it? Or do you discover which Yankee Candle fragrance is best for covering the smell of rotting meat and stock up? Ick. I wanted to come home and hug my chickens.

I was glad to get to the Good Part of this trip. I forgot about the chickens for a while and here's what the next 24 or so hours looked like, more or less:

Bike riding in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Or I guess this is bike-stopping-for-a-picture, really. This is midway around the Wildlife Loop. We also rode the Woodland Trail, Beach Access Road to the beach, and the Swan Cove Trail from the Wildlife Loop side out to the beach. All told we rode about 12 miles. It was really hot. There was some cooling off along the way. Nice of God to put the ocean right in the middle of the ride. I appreciated it. Riding in salt water wet gear is really no different than riding in sweaty wet gear, except that for a few minutes you feel a little cooler!
There's a lot of beach. Not as many people as I expected, but this is "just" beach - no dogs, no canteen, no snack bar, no fried clams, no beer, no shops.
For "lunch" we left the refuge and had ice cream at the Island Creamery, then went back to the beach for a while.

I really want to spend a whole week here. A day isn't enough.

We checked into our hotel, and rested and cleaned up, then headed to Bill's Seafood Restaurant for dinner, where I had - in a huge personal rules violation fueled by too much sun and a glass of wine (Layer Cake Shiraz) - surf and turf.
Very yummy. The seafood is local, we were told, sourced from a fisherman in town. I can't believe I ordered this, but man was it good. The tail was huge. Gene ate more than half of the lobster, but when he saw how rare the filet was I lost his attention entirely and had to leave a bunch behind. The thing was still mooing up at me. I have a rare beef problem. Well. Problem is a relative term. We skipped dessert...

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the Roxy theater where Misty attended the preview of "her" movie in 1961.
I stood in her hoof-prints. I am going to assume she didn't actually sign her name here. We would have seen a movie if it had been of interest - sadly it was the new remake of the karate kid and not really our speed.
I sat (sort of...look, it was a long day. A little schlump is expected)in front of the statue of Misty based on the beautiful illustrations of Wesley Dennis that appear in the original Misty books. By the way if you don't know who Misty is, get thee to a library or Amazon or something, post-haste. Find Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. Follow that up by procuring every one of her horse-crazy tomes, preferably reading them aloud to some curious, precocious child and see what happens. For added value, throw in some Thornton Burgess, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and a smattering of Howard Roger Garis and watch what happens. If the kid turns into a tree-hugging chicken-farming knitter, don't come crying to me. We walked past the house where Misty of Chincoteague was written, which is lovingly maintained as a B&B. Then we went to sleep!
We got up early the next morning for one last bit of beach before turning my wee wagon northward.

First we navigated through a flock of thoughtless pedestrians who were just all over the place. The moved out of our way and I got a picture of them to share.

 Early morning on Assateague.

A visitor, who landed and really requested that his picture be taken and then....

left us.

Out the window heading onto the reserve.

After a bit of wading and no real dipping (turns out I am too old for diving into the chilly Atlantic ocean that early in the day after all) we headed back to the Hampton Inn and Suites and bid farewell to my buddy on the pier.

I promised him I'd be back. And I will, soon!

Between TNNA and this trip I am worn right out. It's going to take me a few days to recover. I think there will be a lot of napping involved...


2monkeys_mom said...

Sounds like a fun trip.

Why is the sundial in the shade?

Ruby said...

A sundial in the shade speaks volumes for that sundial - no accuracy in those shadows.


herasmom said...

I love reading about your trips. you stop at the kinds of places I would stop at if I traveled.
And I too will comment on the sundial in the shade. Is this a contest? Do we get a prize?
Can't wait to see what you're going to do with that gorgeous yarn!

Mich said...

The class was lots of fun! i'm glad I was able to make it.

Interesting about the smoke in the place you stopped at in Fort Royal, from my understanding we've enacted a law requiring indoors of public places (like food places) to be non-smoking. Sorry you didn't enjoy that part too much.

I still think Mr W missed out not hitting the Colonial Turnpike on the bike ride, but maybe next time you come down to this area he'll check it out.

And...I want pictures of the chickens!

Mona said...

What a fun trip, Melissa! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Front Royal. Sundials in the shade. I wish that was the strangest thing I have experienced in that area. If you ever get back there, and if you like pizza, you should try The Melting Pot. Best pizza I've ever had. I live 19 miles away and will willing make the drive for that crack-filled dinner.

Amy Greeman said...

I grew up in Hanover, PA. Just saying. Utz and Snyder's Pretzels, and you could go to the Snyder's factory and order big buckets of the burned ones which are much much better than the regular ones. Also, had all the Misty of Chincoteague books and read them all over and over. So nice to see your post!