Sunday, September 6, 2015


Rochester to Savannah
August 31-September 2
This is our most thoroughly planned road trip ever, and still we are finding surprises along the way.
Our first, and most pleasant, surprise is a stop at the Corning Museum of Glass, which I fondly recall visiting on one of my family’s many educational day trips, back when I was about twelve years old.  We get an early start from Rochester, and have plenty of time to get to Philadelphia--our next destination--so when we get near Corning we decide to make an unplanned stop at the museum.  Surprise!  This is not the museum of my childhood.   Not even close.

Our expectation is to drop in for an hour or so.  Four hours fly by, and we find it hard to tear ourselves away.  This is a science museum, an art museum, and a history museum synergistically combined to create a sensory and mind-bending wonderland for all ages.  
Scale: this installation would fill our living room

We are wowed.
This display shows how much copper wire it takes to equal the communication capacity of one fiber optic cable, which is slightly larger in diameter than a human hair when sheathed for use.  A scientist does a fifteen minute demo that helps us understand how fiber optics work.
We watch a glass blower make a vase, while her partner talks us through the process.  
There are many galleries of glass.  This contemporary fused glass piece reminds me of a quilt.

Dale Chiluly is well represented here, of course.
There are exquisite samples from the museum’s collection of over a thousand paperweights from all over the world, displayed like precious jewels. A gallery takes us through the history of glass making from ancient times to the present, with amazing artifacts.  
Tiffany glass, ornate royal chandeliers, and intricately cut crystal party supplies--it is all so sumptuous as to be overwhelming.
Even the gift shop is an aesthetic treat.
We agree we could spend all day here, and someday we will come back and do just that. 
But, today, we really do have to be on our way to Philadelphia.  
Within less than two hours of our arrival in Philadelphia, we get our second surprise.  As I step out of the elevator in the Crowne Plaza on our way to dinner, I suddenly go airborne on the polished granite floor of the lobby.  After the fall, analysis reveals that someone fresh out of the pool dripped little puddles on the floor while waiting for the elevator, and I have intersected badly with one of those wet spots.  I spend dinner with ice on my ankle, but by the time we walk back across the parking lot to the hotel, it is becoming clear that our plans for exploring Philadelphia by bike and on foot need to be shelved. 
The next morning we check out prematurely and begin our long drive home. 
Although Dick naively thinks that he (I am not driving, due to injury) will drive all the way home in one day, reality sinks in by late afternoon.  We stop when we are tired, in the town of Wilson, North Carolina.  We have never heard of the place--this is just a stop of convenience.  But, it turns out, as is so often the case when we randomly stop off the beaten path, this place has a few surprises in store for us.
Back in the early 1900s, Wilson was known as the “World’s Greatest Tobacco Market,”  but today downtown Wilson is looking pretty dismal, while  a few miles out, the suburbs we drove through look to be stuffed full of all the chain stores and restaurants that homogenize our national landscape so that we can hardly tell one town from another.
Wilson has a grand plan to bring folks back downtown, and its centerpiece is the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. 
It is a work in progress now, but we get the vision. 
Vollis Simpson died a couple years ago, and the city has 31 of his fanciful wind-driven sculptures that they plan to install in this park. 
The effort is a seven million dollar program with grants by all sorts of organizations, including the NEA, which has funded the work of professional conservators and a program to train unemployed and under-employed citizens of Wilson to repair and maintain these whimsical works of art.

After this park is completed, the town plans to create a hip neighborhood around it, converting  old tobacco warehouses into loft apartments and trendy restaurants and shops.   We hope it works.
On the outskirts of the urban core, we visit the Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House Museum. 
Freeman was an African American mason well known around town for his stone masonry skills, and fanciful cement sculptures.   Like many of his buildings, this one contains a wide variety of of stones and bricks--maximizing use of found and recycled building materials. Freeman built this round house as a rental property for veterans returning from World War II, and it is now a museum dedicated to tracing the history of Oliver Nestus Freeman, his family, and other African Americans of note in Wilson.   About half of the 50,000 people in Wilson are African American--this little round house is crammed with pictures, scrapbooks, and all sorts of artifacts that people have donated.  A volunteer staffer tells us stories of Nestus and his family, and shows us a plan for a significant addition to the museum, since it has obviously outgrown its current home. 
Okay, now we are heading straight home, we think.
Just another roadside photo magnet
But we can’t resist one more quick stop at the Fort Bragg Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville. 
It dramatically traces the history of Fort Bragg's valiant soldiers from World War II until today, through lifelike dioramas and multi-media presentations.  If not for my injury, and our now more urgent yearning for the comforts of home,  we could wander around here for quite a bit longer, too. 
Dramatic atrium entry sets the theme
One final surprise awaits us when we return home and find that one of our air conditioning units has stopped working.  Fortunately, the unit that covers the end of the house where our bedroom lies is pumping out the cold air just fine. 
We love our travel adventures, but coming home to sleep in our own bed is heaven.   

Friday, September 4, 2015

A Wild Wonderful Whirlwind Weekend with the Barillas

All Around Rochester
August 28-30

We have been looking forward to this weekend for a long time--we haven’t seen my sister Marcia and her family since Tiffany and Lee’s wedding last year, and our last visit to Rochester was three years ago.  

We pack a lot into this weekend visit, beginning with lunch with Marcia and Aunt Marie as soon as we arrive on Friday.  It is a joy to see Aunt Marie is looking great, and staying active--still driving around town, enjoying her weekly trips to the casino and her Manhattans, and keeping her sense of humor and wonderful infectious laugh.  

After lunch Marcia and I send Dick to the hotel while we hit Chico’s 40% off everything sale, then head back to her house for wine and relaxation on the back deck.  Our husbands join us, and we are off to dinner at Mr. Dominic’s, a fabulous Italian restaurant in the historic Green Lantern inn in Fairport.  We always enjoy great Italian food in Rochester, thanks to the Barilla Italian cognoscenti network, and to the output of Mrs. Barilla’s or Marcia’s kitchen.  Tonight, in addition to a great meal, we have another treat--Fairport  is sponsoring a music festival, and it is a pleasant night to stroll the streets enjoying the music from the different outdoor concert venues and the sights along the Erie Canal waterfront.  We close down a little gelato shop before heading home.
When Marcia picks me up early Saturday morning, she has already been up for hours baking a double batch of her famous chocolate chip cookies, so she can feed Dick’s addiction.   There are far more cookies than two of us will be able to eat over the rest of our trip, but she can be assured that the sugar buzz will keep us alert and well fueled during the remaining miles of this road trip.  
Marcia and I have a spa morning, with relaxing manicures and pedicures at her favorite nail salon.  Then we pick up Dick and head to the Public Market, an institution in downtown Rochester since 1905.  
We begin our visit with the purchase of half a dozen fresh hot apple cider donuts, still hot from the fryer.  Light in texture and lavishly tossed with cinnamon sugar, these donuts get my vote for best I have ever eaten. 
We walk up and down the aisles of the market, eying the produce from farms for miles around, listening to the sellers hawk their wares and people-watching--there are a lot of patrons here making eclectic fashion statements, and folks of every ethnic background imaginable are represented here, it seems.   
Marcia finds fresh sweet corn, leafy lettuce of several varieties and colorful peppers for our dinner tonight.  Just to see everything takes well over an hour. 
We take a detour to an adjacent street to see an arty house and studio with a yard overflowing with art  made from found items, then it is time to rehydrate and grab lunch at a coffee house in the Public Market.

The area around the Market is filled with striking murals. 


Small artistic statements abound here, as well.

Our afternoon tour of Irondequoit reveals that the people who own the house where we grew up are nowhere near as meticulous in its maintenance as Dad was, which should not be a surprise, but is disappointing nonetheless.  We stop into a rental house that Marcia and Tony own across the street from the Irondequoit Town Hall, and find Tony there working on a bathroom renovation.  Soon their son Mike, his girlfriend Olivia, and their big bouncing dog Raffi will be moving in.  Lucky them--this house looks great! 
A highlight of our visit is a cook-out at Barillas this afternoon, with nephews Vin and Chris, plus Chris’s girlfriend Jill and her mom from Philadelphia area.  Philadelphia is our next big stop after we leave here, so we appreciate all their tips about the best driving route to get there and the good things to do--and eat--when we get there.  Here in Rochester, the cook-out includes, just for me, white hots--Rochester specialty hot dogs unrivaled anywhere else.  Fresh local food grilled to perfection in Tony’s Big Green Egg, a beautiful night, and convivial family conversation--it doesn’t get better than this!
Sunday is Mike and Olivia’s moving day, and they can use a bit of help.  Marcia, Dick and I find ways to be of use pretty much all day long.  It’s a good way to spend time together.  We are glad to get a chance to see Mike and Olivia, even though it is a pretty hectic time for them. 
Marcia tells us Barack Obama had lunch at a nearby restaurant, Magnolia’s, when he visited Rochester, and we figure if it was good enough for the President, it is good enough for us in our sweaty moving clothes.   A lunch break in a celebrity hang-out --can’t beat it.
This is our official bucket brigade photo, taken at the end of a very productive day. 
Our dinner is a relaxed family affair of left-overs from meals we have enjoyed over the preceding days of our visit and shared memories of the time we enjoyed together this weekend.
It is always hard to say goodbye to my baby sister.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Along the Allegheny

August 26-27
We are in very rural Pennsylvania to ride the Allegheny River Trail, a paved rail trail that runs through lands that once were the heart of America’s oil boom. 
Our base of operations is the Barnard House in Emlenton, where proprietors Kathy and Paul have tailored their charming and eclectic Bed and Breakfast business to meet the needs of cyclists like us who have come to ride the trail.  The little town of Emlenton (pop. 625) has just one restaurant, a hole in the wall pizza joint and deli, so we drive a few miles downriver to Foxburg (pop. 183) to check out their restaurant, which is wonderfully designed with a wall of windows in the dining room overlooking the Allegheny River.  

We make dinner reservations, but first, we walk across the street to Foxburg Wine Cellars, where they offer unlimited free tasting of over 30 different varieties of wines that they blend from grapes grown by independent vineyards in Erie, Pennsylvania.   Here the woman serving us endless tastes of wine tells us that both the restaurant and the winery are owned by a surgeon who invented surgical titanium rods and pins.  He is rebuilding the town as surely as he rebuilt the broken limbs of his patients.

The next morning, we are up early, hoping to get our ride in before the heat of the day hits too hard.  Kathy prepares us a big beautifully presented biker’s breakfast, packed with plenty of energy for our ride.  Our breakfast table overlooks Kathy’s colorful front garden and the Allegheny River running just across the road.

Paul agrees to pick us up at Franklin, thirty miles up the trail, so we don’t have to just ride out and back.  Perfect!

We start our ride at the hardly traveled road in front of the Barnard House, and ride just a few blocks to the Allegheny River Trailhead.  The first mile or two of the trail are lined with white fences that remind us of Kentucky Horse Country, until we notice the warning signs telling us to stay on the trail and not cross the fences for our health and safety--apparently the ruins that are overgrown with colorful wildflowers and weeds are some sort of petroleum processing facility that has yet to be cleaned up.  Emlenton’s claim to fame is that is it the home of the oldest oil well in the world still producing crude oil today.  Who knows where all the wells that are no longer producing oil may lie?

 Here are some highlights from our ride:

There are two unlit tunnels along the path.  The first is a little over half a mile long.  It curves, so we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel until we are almost there.  It is a little eerie, but Dick bought me a very bright headlight just for this trip (about ten times the brightness of a normal bike light), and there are very good reflectors in the center and at the edges of the bike trail, so we do not have as much trouble as we expected navigating our way through. 

The second tunnel is even longer--about three quarters of a mile.  It is cool and damp with drips from springs along the way, and it is a thrill to ride it.

We see a fisherman wade into the river and cast his line out into the clear water.  We stop to watch as he reels in a fish on the first cast. 

Kayakers paddle and drift with the current.

We exit the trail in Franklin, and dodge a surprising amount of traffic as we try to find our way through town to Lona’s, a restaurant  that our server at the winery recommended to us yesterday.  We sit on a covered patio outside, looking over a town square park and the beautiful old county courthouse across the street as we savor our lunch. 

Then Paul arrives with our car, we load up the bikes and drop him back at the Barnard House Bed and Breakfast, and are on our way to our next adventure.