With fall officially set to depart on Thursday this week, I have to say that fall this year has truly been one of the more beautiful ones that I can remember. Maybe it was due to the fact that we had a rather mild summer. Oh sure, we had a short period of time when the temperatures were in the 90’s, but for the most part, the summer stayed in the 80’s and when fall came, it actually was cool. That might have had something to do with the amazing show that Mother Nature put on in our region. Driving to work, the bright oranges and reds of the trees with the early morning sky showing pink and orange in the background made for a beautiful drive.
And all those wonderful colors on display made for a lot of weekend road trips for my husband and myself. We did a lot of leaf peeping in the region, making several trips to Pennsylvania, including a fall foliage train ride and a tour of covered bridges. We also visited the Great Falls National Park on both the Maryland and Virginia side and discovered a tasty little barbecue place along the way. Can I just say that Mookie’s BBQ in Great Falls, VA serves the most amazing loaded fries, which comes complete with burnt ends, pulled pork, cheddar cheese and onions? Yum! They are worth a stop if you are in the area.
Here are a few photos of some of the places that we visited…
Rocks State Park, Maryland
Great Falls National Park, Virginia / Maryland
Bucks County, PA view from Bowman’s Tower
One of the Buck’s County, PA covered Bridges
All photos © lenalee
My husband and I have made several trips to Conowingo Dam in Maryland to look for Bald Eagles. The dam is filled with fish which makes for a fertile feeding ground for the eagles and other birds that make the dam their home. Eagles are usually extremely territorial and live 1 ½ miles from another nest, but the eagles at Conowingo Dam do not follow that rule. There are literally hundreds of eagles living closely together and enjoying the bounty that the dam provides. I didn’t realize when I was taking pictures just how many eagles there were along the rocks.
Here are some of the pictures I’ve taken during our visits:
And if you want to see more, the short video below shows what the Conowingo Dam is like in November, when the dam opens the locks and fish flood into the water. If I were to visit in November, I think I would stay in the car. The video was entered on Nat Geo and finished in the top 4. The video is by Mike Lemery and can be seen here:
Labor Day, also known as the unofficial end to summer has arrived and now begins the push into fall. The weather has actually been very fall like during the past week or so with temperatures mostly in the 70’s and even dropping into the 50’s at night. Of course it is supposed to get back into the 80’s today, so we will get a reminder that summer is still around. The last two days were also rainy as Maryland was visited by Harvey as the former hurricane exited the U.S. Next on the horizon is figuring out the path Hurricane Irma will take as it gets closer. For those of us along the Atlantic coast, we hope that the path stays well south and avoids the U.S. altogether. But, in case things don’t work out that way, and the path brings it up the eastern coast, we will get ready the best we can.
You can tell that the seasons are starting to change as the trees are beginning to thin out their leaves. Before long we will be able to see the homes behind us again. It is nice during the summer when you only see the green of the trees. Or in the case of our Japanese Maple, a beautiful red wine color. The cooler weather also caused some of the leaves to change from vibrant green to lighter green with yellow tones. So it won’t be long before we start seeing the oranges and reds as nature puts on its fall show.
We have started planning short day trips around the area now that the weather is more comfortable. We booked a fall foliage train ride in Pennsylvania in mid-October and are planning a longer trip in early November. We are taking a covered bridge driving tour and another that will tour barns, some which are hundreds of years old. I hope to get plenty of pictures.
The scanning of family photos that my husband made his winter project came to an end shortly before the remodeling of the man cave/media room began. Once all the photos were scanned, my husband brought up a packet of photos that I realized I had never seen before. It was several photos of he and our son taken in California when our son had joined him for a long weekend while he was on a two-week business trip.
The photos were of the two of them at Legoland. We had told our son when he was younger that if we were ever near a Legoland, we would take him there. I had originally thought we would find time to visit the one in Florida when we lived in the south, but things had never worked out. So here were photos taken when my son was 17 and his dad took him to Legoland, fulfilling a promise made a long time ago. While my son was too big for many of the rides, they still had a great time. They also weren’t the only father/older son there. Looking at the photos, I saw two happy people and realized that it was probably the last time the two of them were in a photo together.
We have gotten away from taking pictures together and use our phone most of the time to capture events in our life. Very few of those are of more than one person in the picture. And even fewer have my son as a part of them. While cell phones are great to capture a moment, we should pull out an actual camera to capture family times that we can look back on and remember everyone together. Time is too precious and there are too many memories left to make.
Saturday was only supposed to be a slight chance of rain, so we decided to take a drive and see the sights. Of course, it rained most of the trip. Here are some pictures. Please ignore the rain drops on the lens.
All photos taken by Lenalee.
I wrote earlier about our trip to the Poconos. While the trip was enjoyable and the views absolutely spectacular, it wasn’t without some minor moments that made me say WTF. So I’d thought I’d share them.
The first WTF moment were the bees. It happened upon our arrival at the train station. I have never seen so many bees in one place before. They were everywhere. On benches, chairs, swarming around the trees and if you thought you could escape them by going indoors, you couldn’t. They were even in the restroom, so there was no escape. The surprising thing was that once you left the train station, we didn’t see another bee the rest of the time we were there. So the town really needs to find out what is causing the bees to stay in one area and try to eliminate it.
Another WTF moment was when we realized that most of the little shops in town were only open for a few hours a day, usually between 11 am and 4 pm. That was rather surprising because the area describes itself as an outdoor lovers destination. It has hiking and biking trails throughout the country. There are also kayaking and canoeing trips that leave from the town as well as zip lining up in the mountains. People are taking part in all of those outdoor activities and when they return to town in the evening, very few shops are open for them to shop and spend tourist money in. We left in the morning and returned later in the day, but there really weren’t many places to stop in and shop.
Shopping provided still another WTF moment. I am a visual shopper. I like to look at the windows and see what the shop is telling me about what they are selling. If what I see is interesting or something catches my eye, I will go in and explore further. If not, then I move on to the next window. But we realized that many of the shops had windows that were blocked out. Some were covered with some sort of film or with a color painted on them. WTF was that about? Maybe the idea was to stop people from staring inside. Other windows were just plain dirty and you couldn’t see in them. Many had nothing written on them to tell you what the shop was. I don’t know about you, but I’m not someone who will walk into a shop where the windows are covered and you can’t see inside. We walked past one shop several times while we were there and on the last night as we walked home after dinner, a person came out with a coffee cup. As we passed by we realized that it was a coffee shop, ut there was nothing on the outside showing that’s what it was. Even the name was obscure. I couldn’t help wonder how much business they were losing because people had no idea they were even there.
The drones provided another WTF moment. I know that drones are being used to capture the beauty of nature, but continually flying over the businesses, one of which was the B & B that we were staying at, was just plan annoying. I mean really, what were they looking for? My mind immediately goes to someone searching the area to find something to steal. I’m sure that wasn’t the case, but the buzzing and hovering was just too much and it drove us inside when we were trying to relax and enjoy the view around us.
And the last WTF moment was that we didn’t see one police officer for the entire time we were there. Not one police car, police bike or even a police officer walking. There was no police presence at all. It was strange. In this post 9-11 age that we live in, we have gotten used to seeing police everywhere, so to see none was really surprising. As we drove home, my husband and I commented on that and we were rather surprised. He said that they were probably there, but just keeping out of sight or were in plain clothes. I said they were probably using the drones to police the town.
We recently returned from our trip to the Poconos, specifically the area around Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. The trip up was very pretty. I was surprised by how much further along the trees in Pennsylvania are in terms of turning colors for autumn than we are here in Maryland. We ran into a little glitch during the planning phase. The place that we originally planned to stay notified us about a month out that they had made an error in booking and we would only be able to stay one night with them and would have to move somewhere else. They seemed surprised when I asked for a refund and declined to stay one night with them. I informed them that I didn’t want to move somewhere else so I would not be staying with them at all. They finally agreed to a full refund and I went to our second choice, which was a Victorian Bed and Breakfast in the main historic area downtown.
We planned to arrive early enough to catch one of the train rides that would take us into the mountains to view the fall foliage. As we drove into town, we saw that there was a picnic area by the train station, so we decided to take our snacks and have a light lunch before the train ride. While my husband purchased the tickets, I went to scout out a spot for lunch. And immediately discovered that the area was swarming with bees. Not just a few, but hundreds of bees. They were everywhere. Even in the shade, which is rare as bees tend to like sunshine and not shade, but it didn’t matter to them. As for me, I am someone who if bitten, swells up a lot. Like major swelling. So I hurried back to my husband, who was noticing the bees around the ticket window as well. Lunch was eaten back in our car and we waited to board the train until they blew the five-minute warning whistle.
The ride into the mountains was very pretty. I left most of the picture-taking to my husband as he is taller and can hold the camera higher. We saw several roads that led to some of the areas around the mountain, so we decided to go back the next morning to check out some of the old tunnels that had been used to haul coal back in the 1800’s. After the train ride, we had some time before we could check into the B & B, so we drove out to find the monument to Jim Thorpe, which was in the other area of town.
Upon checking into the B & B, we were told to just go up to our room on the third floor and the owner would be up in a few minutes to go show us where everything was. Our room was the only one on the floor and we had a small terrace that had a nice view of the mountains. After a brief meeting with the owner, she gave us our keys and said that she would bring up our breakfast baked goods before she left for the day. After unpacking a few things, my husband and I decided to go explore the downtown area. There is a street that runs behind the building that we were staying with little shops and restaurants dotted among the houses. The surprising thing was that many of the shops were already closed for the day. Checking the hours, most were open from 11-4. We poked around those that were still open. My husband was looking for a little gift for his co-worker that would be picking up most of his work while he was gone. He didn’t find anything for her, but we did find a set of slate coasters that were made in Pennsylvania and were rather cute. We ended up back at the B & B and sat on the front porch for a while as we tried to decide where to go for dinner. We had passed several places, so we pulled out our phones and searched for recommendations. We ended up going to a little Asian restaurant down the street and it ended up being very good.
The next day we left after breakfast and found the roads that we had seen the day before from the train. We explored the tunnels and enjoyed the mist floating down from the mountain. We also explored the surrounding area in our search for the covered bridges that I had read about when researching the trip. We found both of them. One is still in use today and the other is located in a State Park. We planned on lunch at Roadies Restaurant and Bar, which is located at Penn’s Peak, which is a concert venue. The food was typical bar food, but was really good. It was the view that was the main feature. We ate lunch while bopping to music from the 80’s and relaxing with the view. If you are in the area, even if you just get to the parking lot, stop and take a look. You won’t be disappointed.
We made it back into town in time to tour a couple of the museums and shops. Before dinner we decided to take advantage of the little terrace outside our room, catch up on the news and read a little. After just a few minutes we started to hear a loud buzzing. Looking up we realized that it was a drone. Someone thought it would be a good idea to buzz the street. It kept going back and forth and was rather annoying so after flipping it off, we went back inside. After dinner, we found a shop that we knew would have the perfect gift for our son, the House of Jerky. We had a really nice time getting away and spending time together. There were some WTF moments, so I will write about those next time.
Over the weekend, my husband asked if I wanted to drive to Fort McHenry in Baltimore to visit the place where the Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. When we moved to Maryland, the state was celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812. There were many activities taking place in the Baltimore area and ships from around the world docked over the summer to commemorate the event. Even our license plates celebrated the event with a colorful array of fireworks and the flag. Two years later, in 2014, the celebrations began again to celebrate the end of the war.
We headed out early on Saturday while it was still cool outside and cloudy since they were calling for rain later in the afternoon. I made sure to bring a hat in case the sun came out and of course it did. First, I was surprised at how small the fort actually was. The photo above is from the National Parks Service and gives a good aerial view of the fort which is somewhat star-shaped. When you look out over Baltimore Harbor, it seems small and very close to the fort. The area surrounding the fort has been well cared for and the grounds provide plenty of benches if you just want to sit and enjoy the view. Several times a day, the Park Rangers will lower and raise the flag, and if boy or girl scouts or military veterans are present, they will ask them to help. If you want to bring a picnic lunch, there is plenty of open space to do so. The Rangers also give tours and throughout the year special events are held at the fort. There were plenty of Park Rangers throughout the area and all were willing to answer questions that anyone might have. The one Park Ranger I didn’t see was Ranger Vince, who has become something of a local celebrity thanks to his quirky personality that comes through during his frequent appearances on local television. It was just announced that he will be leaving Fort McHenry after being promoted and taking a new position in Washington, D.C. Many visitors to the fort will be saddened by this news.
Nearby is the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House that tells the story of the woman who made the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the battle. The actual flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1814 was flown again in 2014 for the 200th Anniversary. Touring both places can take as little as two hours or longer if you want to go at your own pace. If you are near Baltimore, you might want to stop and take a quick tour. The links below will give you more information.
With the arrival of warmer weather comes the need for my husband and myself to compromise when it comes to deciding what to do on our time off. He is someone who enjoys being outside and can usually be found puttering around in the yard, washing and vacuuming out the vehicles and doing every little thing he can find to do outside. I am the opposite. I enjoy being outside when it is cool, but once the heat and humidity arrives, I prefer the air conditioning. One of the reasons is that I take a medication that has a side effect that makes me sensitive to heat. If I get too warm, I turn red and a rash develops. It can also happen if the lights in the office are too bright or if it is too warm inside. So I enjoy spring, fall and winter, but summer, not so much.
As we approached the Memorial Day weekend, I took two days off of work, which meant that I had a 5 day weekend. My husband had 4 days off. We were looking at things to do over the weekend, but then the weather went from the 60’s to the upper 80’s literally overnight. That usually means that we need to find things to do that are a combination of inside and outside. The outside being that I can stay in the cool air conditioning of the car, while my husband explores close by. Sometimes he will drop me off as close to the entrance as possible and go to park the car. I will go inside to wait for him and then we will explore inside, such as an art exhibit or museum. If there are things to see outside, I may go for a few minutes, but will return to wait inside for him to finish exploring. I always tell him to take his time, but I know that he often hurries through and doesn’t get to enjoy things as much as he might if things were different.
So the question of what to do this past weekend came up and I threw out several ideas of places that I want to go visit, but with it being a holiday weekend, the crowds will be bigger than usual and in the end, how much do you really get to see when people are pushing and shoving you out of their way as if they are the only ones who are there playing tourist? Not much. So we decided to stay close to home. My husband is continuing his quest to reorganize the basement and trying to grow grass in the one or two bare spots in the yard. We will be grilling out and I have a new potato salad recipe to try. We’ll find another weekend to explore. I found a boat tour on the Bay that sounds fun and my husband would like to go to Medieval Times, so that is something that I need to look into. After all, Father’s Day is coming.
My husband and I took a trip to Philadelphia over the weekend. It has been rainy for what seems like weeks and last Saturday was the one day that the forecasters said would be rain free although cloudy. With the temperatures in the low 60’s we decided that it would be perfect weather to play tourist. Of course my husband booked us on the Big Bus tour where you can hop on and off and various locations around the city so that meant it would be windy and chilly.
I was surprised by how easy it was to get around the city on the weekend. Parking was no problem and once again, Pennsylvania is really clean. We arrived at the Independence Hall visitor’s center, which is a good starting off point if you are visiting the city. We wanted to do the tour of Independence Hall, so we purchased our tickets and made sure that we arrived 30 minutes prior so that we can go through the security checkpoint. Once on the grounds, the tours were scheduled for every 15 minutes and if there were seats available on the tour before yours, the park rangers would allow people waiting in line for the next tour to go in until all the seats were filled, which was nice. The rangers conducting the tour give little back stories which make the tour interesting. For me, a history major, it was cool to see where our Founding Fathers met to put together the plans for our country. And seeing a chair that George Washington actually sat in was pretty neat.
After touring the actual hall, there are other buildings on the property that you can tour independently. One of them has photographs of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. There are signs clearly asking that flash photography not be used, but of course, there is always the one person that thinks that rule doesn’t apply to them. The park ranger continually asked one kid that had his parent’s expensive camera to stop taking pictures with the flash and he continued to ignore him. After about the fifth time, one elderly gentleman asked him where his parents were and he pointed to the people behind him. The elderly man looked at them and said, “Thank you for letting your kid ruin the documents so that future visitors won’t be able to enjoy them.” The parents thought the gentleman was rude. He replied, “What’s rude is you and your kid thinking that the park ranger asking 5 times for him to stop taking pictures with the flash didn’t really mean you couldn’t do it. What’s rude is you thinking it is okay to harm a National Treasure because your precious son fancies himself a photographer.” People around him cheered and of course the parents were oblivious.
We then decided to get lunch before taking the bus tour and we wanted a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, which every tourist needs to try. While there are two legendary eatery’s that tourists flock to, those people from Philly will tell you about the little place off the beaten track that serves a great cheesesteak, and there are many, so we chose one of those to go to and were not disappointed. It was delicious and I wish I could make them as good at home.
Next was the bus tour. Of course my husband had to sit on top and in the back in order to see everything. Our tour guide was wonderful and filled the tour with little known facts that you don’t find out from the history books. One was the fact the sculpture of Ben Franklin’s head was made from pennies that the school children of Philadelphia collected. Another was that tourists leave pennies on Mr. Franklin’s grave and those pennies total over $3,000 annually. The tour lasted about 2 hours, included a detour and trees that weren’t groomed for the tour buses, so we had to duck to avoid being hit by a rogue branch. But it gave us a great view of the city’s attractions and ideas of places that we want to visit the next time we go back.
Once back at the starting point, my husband wanted to see the Liberty Bell up close. I had seen in from the outside, but he wanted to go inside, so while he lined up to go through security, I stayed outside and soaked up the sun that was starting to break through the clouds. Of course, that little bit of sun was enough to give me sun burn, which I was feeling the next day. We had a very nice time visiting Philadelphia and are planning a return trip. I want to visit Constitution Hall and maybe stop in at the Reading Terminal Market. That alone would fill up an entire day.