Tag Archives: travel

Traveling and Semis

Yesterday as I was traveling from home to Northern Virginia, I was intimidated more than once by semi trucks. When I was young and interstate highways were just being developed, semi trucks were about 35 feet long.  That was intimidating to a new driver then. I am not a new driver, I’ve had a license for more than 5 decades and I have an excellent driving record. My trip takes me on I81, a major north south route through the western part of Virginia. It intersects and superimposes over I64 a major east west route for about 30 miles. Both of these roads are heavily traveled by trucks. It is rare to see a 35 foot truck now, most have 53 foot trailers or two 35 foot tandem trailers. On this trip I saw a few of the longer tandems.

I’m sure that for the most part they are safe drivers, but that route experiences a semi accident about 5 times a week, especially in 2 counties it traverses. It is frightening to get boxed in by these behemouths with them in front and too close behind as well as one or more in the left lane.  On 2 occasions yesterday, I had one try to pass me when I was in the right lane doing the posted 70 mph speed limit, then discover he could not get up the hill at the speed he was going and lane change back to my lane with insufficient clearance causing me to have to brake quickly with another semi on my back bumper.

It is a joy to travel in states where semis are not permitted in the left lane, Virginia is not one of those states.  It would be nice if more funds were invested in the rail infrastructure and send more of our cargo by rail.  Once the train leaves from a city closer than 2 hours from home, I will chose that mode of travel.


On July 27th, we packed the pups off to doggie camp, loaded the car with suitcases, guitar and amp, bike, ball gloves and a cooler and headed south.  Grandson and I in the car, Jim on his motorcycle for his first major road trip.  We headed off for a weeklong visit with our daughter and her family.  We haven’t seen them since last Christmas and grandson hasn’t seen his cousins since last August.  We had booked a hotel room about halfway there, a bit over 400 miles.  It took us longer to make those miles than when it is just the two of us in the car as we stopped every 110-120 miles to reconnect with each other and for Jim to have a chance to get a drink and walk around for a bit to give his sore parts a rest.  Once at the hotel, the guys took a dip in the pool, we found a Mexican restaurant catering to the Mexican population and had a good dinner, then back to let grandson ride his bike around the parking lot to let off some steam.


As the temperature reached 100ºf that day, I’m not sure if he was letting off steam or making steam.

Visiting was active for the three grands, with biking, Lego building, Light saber battles, reading, soccer and baseball, a beach visit, a day at Busch Gardens in Tampa.  The Busch Gardens day was hot and humid, but everyone from the 2 1/2 year old to the 70 somethings found rides to ride, shows to see, snacks to eat.



Riding a camel on the carousel.  We rode it about 5 times and she never would get on a horse that went up and down.

Sunday we started our return journey home, leaving early to try to miss the afternoon rain showers.  Again stopping every couple of hours to reconnect and spending a night in a hotel a bit more than half way home.  The afternoon arrival was greeted with a delightfully cool house that had been closed up with no A/C on, temps in the upper 70’s, a deliciously chilly night in our own bed.

My stop at the neighbor who chicken sits for us, revealed that she didn’t get a single egg, I’m glad I took her two dozen on our way out and brought her a pound of Orange Blossom honey from Florida.  My visit to the coop, I found a still broody hen on one fragile egg that she broke when she puffed up and tried to prevent me from moving her off the nest.


This morning, she got a surprise as I removed her from the nest and put re-freezable ice packs in her nest and the next one over.  She is nearing 22 days of broodiness on an empty nest.

Later this week, a delivery of 15 Rainbow Ranger meat chicks will be delivered and we will begin raising them for 11 weeks.

The heavy straw mulch on the garden has kept the weeds down.  There were a few over developed squash and cucumbers that got fed to the chickens, more harvested for us.  Lots of peppers that I need to process today.  Basil that needs to be pulled and dried. Yellow wax beans pulled and dumped in the chicken pen.  Bunnies or deer got in the garden and ate most of the new green beans down.  I will cover them today and see if there is any recovery.  There are three beds that need some fall crops planted before it is too late.

This morning, grandson and I went to pick up the pups.  They seem to be glad to be home.

We have one more week and a half with grandson and I will return him home.  The weeks have gone by so quickly, but it has been a delight having him with us.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Home at last.  I love my visits to babysit the eldest grandson.  I truly appreciate that they trust me with him so completely and that they appreciate my helping out.  I am glad to be home though.  After almost 8 years of living here in the mountains, the city makes me restless.  At night here, we have total darkness, billions of stars and quiet, only night animal sounds.  Their apartment complex has bright flood lights on the end of each building shining on the parking lots, Sodium Vapor lights in the courts, lighting the walkways and the apartment is never totally dark.  They live near the street end of the complex with one row of buildings between them and a busy Northern Virginia road, so there are automobile, truck and emergency vehicle noises all day and night.  After a few days up there, the city lights and noises don’t bother me as much as when I first arrive, but I am glad to be back in the rural mountain quiet.

It was spring break and the District of Columbia attracts tourists, so grandson’s and my visits to the museums and the zoo were frought with thousands of people.  For the first time in the 3 years they have been there, the volume of people was so high that we had to wait in a block long line to get in the Natural History Museum.  We had hoped to get a glimpse of the just delivered T Rex bones in the fossil lab, but they weren’t visible anywhere that we were allowed and there were so many other folks there because that display is about to be closed for a 5 year renovation, that we couldn’t even see the displays.  Grandson wanted to go to the SPARKS lab in the American History Museum and it is closed until next year for renovations.  There is a lot of renovation going on at the Smithsonian.


This was the crowd waiting to get in when we left at 2:45 p.m. on Friday.

We stayed so busy that I never even opened my spinning wheel, knitted, or took my carders out of my suitcase.  I did read a book and a half though.

My journey home was uneventful, fortunately.  The weather was good, the traffic tolerable.  My first task after greeting hubby and the pups, and unpacking and checking on the chickens, was to put fresh clean sheets on the bed.  It will be a delight to sleep in my own bed tonight and have crisp clean sheets too, they needed changing when I left.



A Zoo Day

Yesterday was spent in part driving for my week of babysitting the eldest grand. They like us have had a week of beautiful weather and it is delightful to have the windows open day and night. Tomorrow that is going to change with 100% chance of rain followed by a drop in temperatures to a spring freeze, then cooler more seasonable day time weather. Grand and I took advantage and bus, then Metro rode to The National Zoo.

The baby Panda cooperated and was hanging out in a tree in plain sight, one of the adults was in the yard as well. An elephant cooperated and let us get a photo.


The Otters, seals, sea lions and wolves were out and visiting, as were thousands of other visitors also on spring break.

Any indoor exhibit was so crowded you couldn’t even see the displays. We saw what we could, walked the length and one side and called it quits. After crowd fighting, we stopped for refreshment and rejuvenation.


He was done! But not to be so, we walked several blocks downhill back toward the Metro and I realized I had dropped one of the Metro farecards with more than $30 on it. This caused me a bit of panic and a jog back uphill to see if I had dropped it out of my pocket and fortunately it was right under the chair I had used. Back downhill to the train to discover they were having issues and we had to wait quite a while as the crowd grew and finally were packed like sardines, standing on the train. Before we got to our connector point there were so many bodies on the subway that you couldn’t move and could hardly breathe. When we got back to the station a mile from home, we had 30 minutes to wait before the afternoon commuter buses started, too tired to walk home, we waited.

Portuguese white bean soup is on the stove and I’m hungry and tired.

Tomorrow is rainy so we will take the car to the Udvar Hazey Space Center and maybe a bookstore.  Later in the week we will venture back to the District to the Smithsonian American History Museum.

Spinning, not the exercise class

I have been spinning fiber for about 4 years now, starting with a drop spindle and switching to a wheel a couple of years ago.  My first wheel was a restored Ashford Traditional that I bought from a friend who had restored it and learned on it and then won a new wheel.  I learned on it, using it for a bit more than a year, sold it to mutual friend who is a fellow knitter that wants to learn to spin.  When I sold it, I bought an Ashford Kiwi 2 as I wanted a double treadle wheel and used it for nearly a year and sold it to get a wheel that travels better for going to spinning group and for taking when I go to spend a week babysitting with a grand.  My new wheel which I have only had for a few weeks is a brand new Kromski Sonata.  Getting the new wheel inspired me to work through some of the fiber I had collected and have made undyed Shetland wool yarn that is for sale at Greenberry House (www.greenberryhouse.com) in Meadows of Dan.  Then I finished 3 ounces of Merino, spun for a friend.

As spinning is going well, I decided that I was ready to start expanding the yarn making process and wanted to mix some of the Alpaca fleece that I have with some wool that I have, so I bought a set of hand carders from Strauch Fiber Equipment Co. (http://www.strauchfiber.com/) as she is a spinner in the group to which I belong.  I have started blending the Caramel colored Alpaca with a light and dark Blue Faced Leicester wool.


Today Jim and I took off for a drive and ended up at Olde Liberty Fiber Faire (www.olfibrefaire.com/).  From that I came home with a big red cloud of hand carded Tunis wool and a bag of dark colored Finn X Jacob to spin and a small pot of garnet red dye to try my hand at dyeing my own yarn.  


Once I feel that I have a good handle on these skills, my goal is to buy a whole raw fleece, wash it and hand card the locks for spinning into yarn to dye.

I’m sure Jim would have rather spent the day wandering around the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Fest that we passed and watched literally hundreds of motorcyclist headed in that direction, but he spent the day with me.

Tomorrow, my wheel, hand carders, a suitcase packed with clothing, yarn and fiber are headed off for a week of babysitting in Northern Virginia while he stays home and critter sits the 2 dogs, 2 cats, and 20 chickens.  I am leaving him with homemade stew, chili, and goulash so he doesn’t have to eat out each night.

Life is an adventure on our mountain farm, and off of it when we take a day trip.

Home Again

This past week was one of my visits to Northern Virginia to aid with childcare for L (eldest grandson.)  As RT (eldest son) had driven my car up there on Christmas to get their gifts home and to have some transportation for a month.  Living in that area and on near a Metro line, they don’t own a car.  Where they can’t get on the Metro, they go on their bicycles.  If it is too far for that, they just don’t go.  On Friday evenings, L has his guitar lesson for 30 minutes and RT manages to get their grocery shopping done and they load it all on their tandem bike or take the bus home.  Having my car makes the whole process more convenient.

Because of the car already being there, I went up on the Amtrak train out of Lynchburg.  It will be more convenient when it comes into Roanoke.  I generally take the MegaBus, but there were no seats available on the day I needed it.  The train ride was an interesting experience, I haven’t really ridden a train since before Jim and I married and prior to that taking it to college.  For some reason, the train car was so hot, I stripped down to my t-shirt and slacks, but I wasn’t sharing a double seat, so I just piled all my snow layers in the seat beside me.  Having not slept well the night before due to worrying whether we would be able to make the 109 mile drive in the snow that fell that night and having to get up at 3:30 a.m. to make the trip, I spent a good part of the 4 hours dozing.

Normally, L and I try to find outings together, but he opted to go to the School Aged Afterschool Care program one day to go roller skating and didn’t feel well the next day.  Yesterday, he, RT, and I planned an outing to Chinatown in Washington DC to watch the Chinese New Year’s parade, fighting the traffic to get there and realize it was today instead.  We used the time we had put on the parking meter to get some lunch in a Chinese Restaurant (surprisingly one of the only ones in Chinatown) then did the art scavenger hunt in the Luce Foundation part of the  Smithsonian American Art Museum.

This morning, my car loaded, and breakfasted with bagel sandwiches made by RT for us, I pointed my car home and had an easy trip with little traffic and no bad weather.  That is supposed to begin later with a bit of everything predicted this week, rain, ice, sleet and snow and one model showing us getting our first major storm this season with 18″ or more of snow.  That will shut us in for a few days.

I enjoy my trips to help them, but am always glad to be home to my own schedule, our bed and routine.

The Compact Traveller

I have always been a minimalist when it comes to packing. This began when I was a backpacker and whatever I needed was carried on my back. I am a tallish, thin woman, not Charles Atlas and did not want to tote around 35 pounds of gear, it leeched my stamina and left me at the end of the day with a headache. My solution was to learn ultralight backpacking and when I gave up that activity after my sons grew beyond scouting age and our Old Farts group disbanded, the practices I learned spilled over to suitcase packing. For the three years that Jim and I commuted across the state to see each other every few weeks, the travel to visit and help out with one of our kids, our annual ski trips and most recently, our cruise and then the trip to Mexico have been in one carry-on suitcase. My preference is a small hard side suitcase except when skiing where I carry a two compartment case that holds my boots, two changes of quick dry ski wear from skin out, ski pants, gloves and helmet. Incidentals on those trips go into another case shared with Jim.

As the process has evolved, there are items that live permanently in the case, a small stuff sac with a USB charger port that holds 4 cables for phones, tablet and camera; a travel clock, book light/flashlight combo, a hand wash clothesline. Also there is a quart zip bag with a bar of my handmade soap that is used for body and hair, a Toob brush that is a toothbrush with a small tube for toothpaste or toothpowder inside, a widetooth comb for my long hair, and a deodorant stick, none of this needs to be removed for TSA checks.  There is a pair of folding ballet flats for slippers and a fleece that rolls compactly. When I am ready to pack, the climate is considered. If laundry facilities are in question or will cost, quick dry layers are packed that can be hand washed and hung overnight to dry. Rarely are there more than 3 under layers and shirts packed, one change of pants, a skirt if dress up is needed and a sweater.

With this bag I carry a leather tote with my tablet, phone, wallet, a shawl or scarf to be used as a pillow, blanket or shoulder cover on a train or plane, or as a shoulder cover in a restaurant,  a solid lotion bar, my knitting project and my camera.

When the northern Virginia trips are scheduled, half my case is packed in doubled insulated grocery bags of frozen chickens and venison for their freezer.

My minimal packing allows for the packing of these supplies for their family and I returrn home with a lighter case.


The Sitter


Several times each academic year,  she travels 4 hours northeast to have quality time with the eldest grandson. He is an active 8 year old, she has two score and 18 on him, but young at heart. Her primary purpose is to provide daycare on his non school days when his parents both have school and/or work. She supervises his homework and guitar practice on those days and gets to enjoy one on one time as well.

Often, an outting or two is planned, weather permitting, the winter being the most difficult to find things to do. His house is less than a mile from the Metro train into Washington, but the temperature is too cold to endure the walk and finding parking there is nearly impossible as it is a terminal commuter station. She seeks alternative activities. 

Today he went roller skating with his School Age Child Care Program, thus giving  her half a day of solo time. Time spent helping out the family with some household chores, buying a few groceries to have the rest of the ingredients for chicken enchiladas for dinner, utilizing some of the meat that her son helped put in the freezer last spring or fall.

Tomorrow, they will either brave the cold, though somewhat warmer and visit one of the Smithsonian museums on the mall or brave the traffic and visit the Space Museum near Dulles.

Family time will be enjoyed Saturday and she will return to her hubby and the farm life on Sunday.

Weather misfire

The snow was nearly melted from Saturday’s unexpected coating. Sunday had dawned with an expected warm up which occurred as the weather prognosticators had predicted. By the end of the day, the field looked like tan leopards with white spots and for the first time in weeks the faucets in the utility room did not have to be left dripping. The dogs were disappointed that the snow was nearly gone.

Monday’s high was at 6 a.m. and there was a 41°f drop during the course of the day, but no precipitation was expected for several days. Tuesday was frigid, never climbing above the mid teens with strong and gusty winds and snow flurries. The east coast was bracing for a major snowstorm that was to go east of the mountains. This was good, as she was to catch a train the following morning north to go babysit for a few days. The train station 109 miles away and the train departing at 7:38 a.m.

As evening fell, the snow started, again unexpected and several inches suddenly predicted. What to do, already they were to leave home by 5 a.m. to make the train and with dogs that couldn’t be left for more than a few hours, making the drive that night wasn’t an option. Instead alarms were set an hour earlier in hopes that the roads would have been treated overnight. The mountain descent was snow covered and a bit slick, but the highways in most places were fine.

The schedule was met and this is the morning view.




The world is again white, the sky clear and the sun is shining. The dogs again have snow in in which to play and the chickens won’t come out until it melts from their straw. Today and tonight are frigid, then it warms to normal winter weather, until the ice storm on Monday. She better get home in her car by the weekend. He drives home alone to the company of the dogs and becomes caretaker for the chickens today and for a few to come.

All Good Things Must End

The holidays are over and with it, the travel time. These past couple of months have been quite atypical for us. We travel little, other than my jaunts to Northern Virginia to babysit for a few days, we generally take a weeklong ski trip, boarding the pups and a week long visit to our daughter’s family with the dogs.

This fall we left on a two week adventure after boarding the pups. One week of that was a Bahamas cruise with our youngest son and his family, then spent an additional week with them in their home. The dogs like the boarding kennel we use, but were glad to be home.

That was followed with Thanksgiving at home with eldest son and his family visiting, then a week later, boarding the beasties again for our week long trip to Zihuatenajo Mexico.

Back home from that the second week of December in time to decorate and finish shopping for Christmas, we had a couple of weeks to recover.

Christmas brought eldest son and grandson back for a few days to celebrate together and Christmas noon, they left in my car headed north to home and we loaded up gifts, luggage, and dogs in Hubby’s SUV to drive south for 4 days with daughter’s family.

The visit was fun. The kids love the dogs, with our two plus their golden, it was a houseful of fur. Our pups stoically tolerate the 13 to 14 hours each way driving.

It has been great, but we are tired and ready to be home for the winter. My neighbor has gotten more of my eggs this fall than have we and the freezer is full of our produce we haven’t been home to eat.

All of this was on top of last February’s week trip skiing in Colorado, a 3 day ski trip in West Virginia, and the 3 day August trip for the family gathering. That has put us away from home in the past year for 42 days. We have exhausted our travel quota til our energy and budget recover.