Saturday, November 26, 2011

Music City here we Come!

We’re cruising down I 81 in Tennessee, blue grey sky watching the starlings migrate. Hawks and horses occupy the highway sides, as do the cows and the Blue Ridge Mountains that frame everything into a beautiful picture fit for a postcard. Good Highway 81 that takes you far south, the road that occupies my mind whenever I think of traveling down here. Where the highway speed turns to seventy, and crosses dot the landscapes and hillsides. About an hour ago we saw a building that had a sign that said “Jesus saves” and below it another sign saying “We buy guns.” The contradictions and cleverness of the south and its people never ceases to entertain and inform. In some ways you know exactly how people think, with confederate flags still flying high in the backs of trucks and highway rest stops, there is pride in their cultural history, and their place in this nation. In other ways there is a subtlety and quietness to the people here, and a generosity and big a heart.

Traveling feels a bit slow while towing the good old Scamp behind us. We're averaging about sixty miles an hour so far... She’s attracted quite a bit of attention in the past couple of days, and were told by some Colonial Williamsburg employees that she was the talk of the town! We’ve gotten some enthusiastic questions about where we got it, and where can other people find one, and how much did it cost. I’m thinking of maybe for fun at some point having a little question and answer session to share with all of you the details of life in the Scamp. We expect that this is not the last of the curiosity; it certainly brings those who have travelling on the mind right out of the woodwork and into the open.

We’ve gotten some questions with regard to posting comments here on the blog. First off we’d love to hear your comments, like little postcards from back home. Stay tuned for a post about how to go about posting!

Thanks for reading today,

Emma and Pat

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cobblestone, brick layed, cedar shakes so old.

Hello All,

So follow up on my last post I’d like to tell you a bit about our excursion into Colonial Williamsburg Virginia. First I have to tell you that I’ve wanted to travel there since I was a little girl. I have always loved old things, whether they are homes or clothing, tools or heirloom vegetables I love them, and they draw me toward them inescapably. So to venture back into time where everything was so beautifully handmade, where horses ruled transportation and so did feet, there is within me still that excited little girl. I was lucky to have a mother who sewed me beautiful colonial style dresses and who found a hoop skirt for me as Christmas present one year. We used to take trips to Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, a living history museum complete with buildings and people in period costumes inhabiting them. This appreciation stems from the love of the handmade, from a father who works with his hands to build furniture and homes, and both of my parents together had a vested interest in showing me how the things we use everyday are made.

To start our visit we arrived late in the afternoon and decided to take a look around the City of Williamsburg. You can walk throughout the historic town on public streets, but a ticket is required to enter many of the buildings where exhibits of colonial businesses and homes are taking place. Costumed interpreters in period dress roam the streets making conversation with one another and with visitors. All of the the tradespeople in the shops are practicing their work for real application within the city. For instance the wheel wright makes wheels for the carriages that carry people around the city. The cabinet makers are building furniture for buildings on the site.

We walked around till dusk and decided to go to one of the evenings many events, a ghost walk! Led by candlelight to various buildings throughout the city, we sat within the walls of history and listened to the ghost stories from people portraying actual old characters. It was neat being able to see the city from the inside at night. From a woman who was haunted by the death of her young son and passed away in England thousands of miles away who still haunts the local Matthew Whaley School, to a nurse who could have been the culprit in burning down the Governors Palace, it was a great blend of history and story.

On Wednesday we started our day with another walking tour, this time focusing on slavery in the city of Williamsburg. The one aspect of the city that seems only partially portrayed is that reality of slavery and how large the population of the enslaved really was.. Our guide led us to several buildings, first to the church which was used as a tool to justify the treatment of slaves, to the courthouse to speak of the punishments slaves would receive for hardly any infraction of their station, and finally to stand beneath a large oak to talk about unearthing these injustices so that we can all know the reality of what their lives meant to our culture and history. Pat and I always enjoy the back story behind history and politics and that the truth of our country usually lies within the stories of people that as our guide said “Have been erased out of history.”

We also went to the De Witt Museum that houses several exhibits including colonial era furniture, old coins and money used in the first colonies. Right now there is an exhibit on 18th century maps from different areas in the world, written and drawn up by different explorers, a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, and a dollhouse that was in the store windows of the F.A.O Schwartz toy store in the nineteen thirties.

During our stay in town we also visited the cooper, the blacksmith, the cabinet maker, and the magazine which housed the weapons and ammunition for the city. My personal favorite was the farm! Complete with pigs horses and working cattle, a smokehouse, a tobacco barn and small dwellings where the slaves would have lived. I think it’s the prettiest part of the whole time, not surprising as I love and have worked on farms and have a big interest in agriculture from a simpler time.

All in all we’re loving our entry into the south, we’ve both been here and like the slower pace and friendliness of the people. It was fun to see the eastern part of Virginia where neither one of us have been to before. Many steps back into the past and now onto who knows what! To follow are some more pictures.

Till next time


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks be to Pirates

The last few days have been rather sleepless but exciting. We left New Jersey in a bit of a rainy fog, after a beautiful and sunny weekend as you can see from the pictures in the previous post! We headed toward Williamsburg Virginia with the phone number of Pat’s aunt in the door pocket, and the expectation that there would be a lot of holiday traffic during our trip.

While driving through Maryland Pat remembered oddly enough that the Dogfish Head brewery is there so we decided to look them up and see if we could go. Not anticipating the extent of what “Washington D.C Traffic” truly means, we plugged along innocently enough toward our new destination of the brewery. As most of you reading probably know, Pat and I are home brewers and have made all different sorts of beer for a few years now in various kitchens and yards and basements. Yielding (almost) always tasty varieties, and learning a whole lot about the brewing process, hence our appreciation on the subject, and art of brewing. I ordered the Midas Touch, an ancient recipe dating back 2,700 years discovered in the tomb of King Midas himself, and pat ordered the black and tan made from the ninety minute IPA and their chicory stout. Our meal was great and it was a fun and unexpected diversion.
The Midas

During our meal we heard back from Pat’s aunt who lives along the route to our destination of Williamsburg, as do his grandparents. So after the brewery we were off again into the view of a long string of break light’s and angry commuters. The Thanksgiving holiday really brings out the good in all of us, especially at six o clock on a Monday night. We’re both so glad that that drive is not something we have to put up with on a daily basis.

When we first arrived we got to have a visit with his Grandparents who he does not get to see very often, so that was important for him to get a chance to spend some time with them. I wish I had some pictures to show you of the three of them together but sadly the camera was forgotten back at Aunt Diane’s house much to my chagrin!

We were put up very generously for the night and got to have a visit in the morning over breakfast. Diane showed us a really interesting and detailed book of family documents that she has been working on. Inside are pages of birth and death certificates, a passport from Pat’s great grandfather, and a ton of really interesting genealogical information all preserved and dated for the future. The handwriting and the care taken in old documents are so much more beautiful than the way our information is translated today. We talked for a while about distant relatives and stories that don’t get told that often, unless the names associated with them are spoken, and the memories come back to the teller. Diane also gave us a quick showing of her dog’s agility skills on a course out behind her house. Her dogs Buzzy, Bethany, and Breezy are competitive agility dogs and have all the ribbons to show for it! They run literally through hoops and jump over obstacles with impressive panache.

After our visit we headed once again toward Williamsburg only to be diverted again by the national park only minutes from Diane’s house which includes several Civil War battlefields. We stopped at the place where The Battle of the Wilderness took place, the first encounter with Generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysees S. Grant. With great losses on both sides, the trenches are still visible in the open fields and through the still forested landscape. An interesting place to stand to observe history and also eerie at the same time to stand in a place where so many people died on the same day.

I’m going to share with you all about our trip to Colonial Williamsburg and all the fun we’ve been having over the past few days a bit later on today. We’re going to Jamestown down the road to have a Thanksgiving meal shortly so I’m going to wrap this post up! We both wish everyone a great day today, we’re thinking of you all. We’re thankful for all of you in our lives. Meanwhile, I’m going to honor Captain Kidd and his pirate band today, but that’s a whole other story.

Till later on


Monday, November 21, 2011

Boardwalk Stomp

We’ve spent the past two days in lovely sunny Seaside Park New Jersey, a lovely seaside town on one of the many barrier islands along the East Coast. A small strip of land measuring four blocks wide in some of the narrowest areas, it is a small beach community that swells to a large tourist population in the summertime. The beaches are beautiful here and people have been capitalizing on that beauty in a big way since the tourism boom in the nineteen twenties.
Just about two miles away lies Seaside Heights, a booming and colorful boardwalk centered culture with an amusement park, bars, restaurants and one of the best people watching spots I’ve ever been to. Several evolutions have occured to create such a carnivalesque culture that would bloom into an  entertainment capitol of the region. In ninteen fifteen Joseph B. Vanderslice opened a steam driven merry go round at the newly built Amusement Palace. It had an imported German organ, drums, and cymbals that made the music to accompany this new tourist attraction less than a few hundred feet from the ocean. Home to the baby parades where prizes were awarded to the "handsomest baby, cutest baby, and chubbiest baby," Seaside Heights has been catering to the creative and fun seeking for decades.
 After the summer ends so does the season for most restaurants and businesses catering to the influx of people in the summer, so this time of year the carnival and boardwalk are shut down. save for the faithful few. Much of the boardwalk feels eerily quiet in the way the wind moves through the corrugated metal doors that shut up the gaming vendors. The normal summer sounds of arcade machines, pumping bass speakers from boardwalk bars, and the ever entertaining solicitations from the carnival game operators are totally absent now in November. In their place are a family of stray cats who’ve made a home underneath the piers that hold swings and roller coasters and a vast array of rides. Groups of fishermen driving their trucks up onto the beach and the locals who take their walks are the only people left now. We have been here at peak season and off season, and we kind of like it when it’s empty, just as many locals seem to.
 Pat has grown up coming to the island with his family and knows this place well. We’ve gotten to spend time with family while we’ve been here which is always a real treat. We always enjoy getting to hear about the local history and how it came to be.  From the railroad bridge that used to span the distance between the mainland and the island that is now just remnant of what it was, to the murder mystery of Lavalette, we love all the historic details of this Oceanside town
 The Island is also home to the amazing Island Beach State Park. Beautifully preserved beaches and sand dunes were scattered with scores of people this particular weekend, due to the abundance of striped bass this time of year. The fish are in!  We saw tired fisher folk walking away early in the morning with long gills in their hands and tails sweeping the boardwalk, wearily carrying the mornings catch. One of Pat’s relatives caught nine twenty pound fish today! In the experienced club of fisherman he resides. Out at Island Beach State park you can drive out about ten miles to the end of the island and hike out to see the Barnegat Lighthouse just across the water, or if you have four wheel drive can take your vehicle out onto the beach. These two sections of land were connected at some point, but now you have to go the long way around by car, or not so far if you’re lucky enough to have a boat.
 Patrick and I were here back in June and saw a humpback whale, which is unusual for this area.  That was a real treat. In the summertime one can watch the daily commute of dolphins up the length of the island. You can’t run fast enough along the shore to stay with them as they glide along at top speed!
 This morning we took a lot of pictures up on the boardwalk where we joined the discontented statues of clowns and giraffes, while eating doughnuts and bagels from two of our favorite bakeries. The real deal as far as doughnuts go, the Boston Cream from Fumosa Bakery can’t be beat! Later on we drove up through the State Park and did some bird watching and sand trudging. We were graciously taken out to dinner at our all time favorite Klee’s pizza. What a wonderful kick off weekend to begin our trip onward. We hope your enjoy our photo essay to follow.
Seaside Heights Boardwalk Beach
Our favorite new game "Pile up People"
Barnegat Bay at sunset