In August, 2006, we loaded the
kids into the car and drove south. Here are some of the
highlights of our adventures.
young kids from the North went a-driving
To the parts of The States that were thriving.
They did moan, they did whine,
Almost all of the
Not to kill them, their parents were striving!
Blue Ridge Mountains rise:
Hilltops fading into
Valley, green, below.
August 9: Little Bunny Foo-foo meets hismaker
drive through to Ithaca was pleasant and
uneventful, except for a rabbit who didn’t look both ways before
Interstate.To atone, we dined at Veggie
Mecca, also know as the Moosewood Café.Our
pilgrimage a success, despite Ithaca’s maze of one-way streets,
we dined happily on food that was better than I’d been led to expect.The chocolate fudge brownie we ate in the car
as we drove through dark mountain roads en route to Binghamton (and our hotel) didn’t
August 10: Let it Ring
got into Philadelphia by ten in the
morning.We’d left Binghamton at six, passing by a
kosher bakery in town on our way out.Again,
the roads were good and the weather clear.The
hotel had our room ready, so we dropped
off our bags, grabbed a map, and set off on foot across the Schuylkill river into central
course, the interesting historical sites were on the far side of
downown.Nevertheless, we made good time
Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Carpenters’ Hall (where the US
first met) before the skies opened and the deluge began.
Liberty Bell. The
crack, disappointingly, wasn't the result of some cannon shot or
anything, but, rather, faulty construction.
Luckily, we have
experience with sudden
downpours.We waited out the first part
of the stort at Carpenters’ Hall, and then took advantage of a
to dash to the portrait gallery, housed in the building of the Second
Bank.We discovered two things: American
Independence was luckily not a beauty contest; and artist Charles
was notable more for the quantity than quality of his work.As an aside, John Paul Jones looked an awful
lot like Dubya, and George Washington looked goofy in a suit AND a toga.
the rain ended and we started the long hike back to the hotel.Fortunately, Trader Joe popped up in our
path, and provisioned us with kosher supplies for supper.
conference got started, and I decided to take the kids to the FranklinInstituteScienceMuseum.Our
Ontario Science Centre memberships did
the trick again, and got us free admission.The
first section we hit was all about animation.We
must have spent close to two hours
exploring the various demonstrations they had.Eventually
famished, we walked to the Reading Terminal
Market where we
found some curry for lunch, followed by fresh cookies for dessert. We
returned to the museum, marveling at the public spaces and architecture
way, and explored one more exhibit before returning to the hotel for a
in memory of WWII
Gavi enjoying the
The Free Library
Fountain in front of
Franklin Parkway, looking towards Art Gallery
we went to the Philadelphia
Museum of Art.There is a lovely path
along the Schuylkill leading to the row of boat
houses just past the art gallery, and apparently, beyond as far as Valley Forge.
Bike and Pedestrian path along
the Schuylkill River
But don't forget to walk your
bike down the ramp!
The boat houses just past the Art Gallery
With the two kids in tow, we breezed through
nine centuries of European art in what must be record time.The museum is very impressive though: coats
of arms and weapons, medieval icons and manuscripts, a portion of an
abbey (fountain included), Renaissance masterworks, and impressionist
including Vincent’s Sunflowers, whizzed past us on our whirlwind tour.Finally we found the path again and returned
home for another swim and rest before Mikael finished his day at the
and joined us in the room.
of his colleagues had mentioned a kosher vegan Chinese place that
all-you-can-eat Dim Sum, and we took the subway there for supper.The rave reviews he kept hearing were all
accurate, for the food was both plentiful and delicious.Even Hadassah got into the act, devouring
taro balls and scallion pancakes with an abandon not usually found in a
not-quite-two-year-old.We went to bed
with full tummies.
August 13: Mountains
conference all but over, we left Philadelphia at . And hit the highway,
after stopping at a yield sign at the bottom of the on-ramp, of course.The drive took us through the north Delaware, then into Maryland, we the famous Seven Mile
Market (thank you, O Ye Kosher Gods) awaited.We
were concerned that it might not be open at on a Sunday morning, but
then thought, Hey, food and Jews go together.And
lo! The place opened at eight.Many
grocery bags later, we left with directions to
Goldberg’s Bagels in
hand.And oh my, but we weren’t the only
ones with bagels on the brain.The place
was, to use the technical term, rocking!
back on the highway.As we approached Washington, the traffic grew heavier,
and did not let up much till we joined the I-81 a hundred-some miles
road.The resort we stayed in is
definitely off the beaten track.You
turn off the highway between nowhere and nowhere else, and then drive
minutes into the mountains on beautiful, shaded and s-shaped mountain
roads.We had a bedroom downstairs with
a huge Jacuzzi, living space with kitchen and dining room on the main
and a loft with two single beds upstairs for the kids.
long, city noise. Shenandoah
valley’s song Sweetly
fills my ears.
August 14: Playdate
neglected to tell my children, but is NOT the correct time to
wake up while on vacation.We were all
up, breakfasted and dressed and ready to go by seven.We needed to pick up a couple of things
before Sherri and Janet were expected around , and since we had lots of
time to kill, we took the secondary highway to Harrisonburg.The
vistas were lovely, as a light blanket of
mist lay gently on the mountainsides, softening edges and giving the
a dreamlike glow.
was super to see Janet and Sherri again.With
a few wrinkles, the boys got on, and the grownups had
a great time
eating, drinking and yakking.We ended
up at the nearby lake, and took some very tired children home at the
end of the
Grant and Harry enjoyed tacos and beans at the table, before heading to
the lake where they swam and went paddle-boating with Mikael while the
girls chatted on shore.
Sherri and Janet. I'm the
skinny one in the middle. ;-)
August 15: Deep Dark Secrets
started today deep underground at the Luray Caverns.One and a quarter miles of pathways wind
through caverns descending as much as 164 feet below ground, passing
stalactites, stalagmites, mirror-like reflecting pools, cathedral-like
chambers, a stalactite organ, and Pluto’s Ghost.
After a quick visit to an automobile museum
on the same site, we dove up to Winchester, stopping at a 7-11, where
Gavi got the largest cup of Pepsi I’ve ever seen – almost 2L of pop in
Winchester is a cute old town with a
nice pedestrian mall running through the centre.We
spet a lot of time –an money – in a
wonderful small bookshop that had all the books and toys that people
really should have, and none of the extraneous stuff.Home, then, down Route 11, home to Route 11
Potato Chips, where we laid in provisions: salt & vinegar, sour
chive, and garlic & herb.
was a young lady from Maine Who
wished she had visited Spain But she
didn’t like flying; The
thought set her crying, So from Spain she was forced to refrain.
trip has been punctuated by frequent requests from the back seat for
homonyms: Gavi has discovered limericks!We
spent the drive to Skyline Drive
(including a detour down the aptly-named Back Road) trying to explain the
required rhymes and meters for this time-honoured poetic form.
offering of chocolate chip cookies and pina coladas must have pleased
weather gods, for they rewarded us with perfect weather: clear, blue
decorated with the occasional puffy white cloud for contrast, and
Shenandoah Valley from Skyline Drive
can see the four crests of mountains - the Blue Ridge in the
foreground, the two ridges of Massanutten Mountain in the middle, and
in the distance, the faint line of the Shenandoahs, part of the
Drive takes you down the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains in ShenandoahNational Park.We
started at the northern gate in Front
Royal, and drove south.The road is
slow, the scenery spectacular, and the hikes snail-like, especially
two-year-old is setting the pace.The
first five miles of road took us an hour to cover, but we enjoyed every
inch.By the time we finished our first
short hike, however, Dassa, whose morning mantra had been “walking,
was now moaning “car, car!” And when it was time for the second of the
hikes we did, she changed her tune again to “pram, pram!”
one trail took us past an old cemetary
our walks, we encountered all manner of beautiful butterflies.
drove about two thirds of the park today, leaving the rest for the next
day.Those 65 miles of twisting, turning
climbing and descending took us five hours.Near
the exit point for this day’s adventure, we realized
we had left
Dassa’s sippy cup at the very buggy picnic spot where we quickly ate
lunch.Of necessity, then, we stopped at
a pharmacy to replace said cup.Mikael
found a pink one, decorated with Disney princesses.“Pink…
princesses… what says our daughter better than that?” he asked as he
into the car.And indeed, as she
examined her new acquisition, she gleefully announced, “Pink pwintet!Boo pwintet!Ah-yo
the way is yellow.She hasn’t quite got
the “y” sound down.)
one disappointing part to our adventure so far was our unsuccessful
frozen custard, whatever that may be.It
seems to be a local delicacy, but as always, once you start looking for
something, it’s nowhere to be found.Oh
yeah… and who, exactly, WAS Stonewall Jackson?
August 17: Town and Country
started off in Staunton, a small city about 45
miles from Mt.Jackson, where we were based.It’s a delightful town, with cute shops,
interesting buildings, and a Shakespeare festival that seems to make it
place for the “return visit” list.
then drove to Charlottesville, with the hope of seeing Jefferson’s estate at
Montecello.However, the step admission
price, coupled with two un-tour-worthy children, made us reconsider in
and we left Montecello for the rich American tourists.
was one in the afternoon by the time we parked in downtown Charlottesville, near the library where I
tried, for the first time, to call Janet.We
walked up to the old court house of AlbemarleCounty, which dates from
17something, and where we discovered that Stonewall Jackson actually
first name, which we have already forgotten.There
is a terrific pedestrian mall there as well, and we
amble and ice-cream, and upon not reaching Janet for the third time, we
our drive home.
finished the leg of the Skyline Drive we hadn’t managed the previous
then managed to find a byway that runs up one side of Massanutten
(don’t look down!), through the valley that runs down the middle of the
two-ridged mountain, and down the other side.We
didn’t get home till that night!
middle of Massanutten Mountain, we passed through the bustling
metropolis of Kings Crossing
August 18: Mrs. S Goes to Washington
got an early start from Basye, leaving before the resort office even
opened.We decided that since one
Interstate looks much like another, we would take the secondary
towards D.C.We stopped briefly at Manassas battlefield, and were
settled in our hotel room in Springfield, Virginia, before .A few
misadventures with parking, and then we
were on the Metro heading into town.
at Manassas: "Thomas Jonathon
Jackson stood there like a stone wall."
initial plan was to walk around and get a sense of the place, but the
temperatures were beastly and the walking not at all pleasant.
Washington itself is very Grand and
somewhat Self-Important, but I found it lacking in soul. Mikael
disagreed.The Mall, a mile in length from
to the Washington Memorial, is open and unkempt. The grass is weedy and
never watered by man.Along either side,
the Mall is flanked by the various buildings that comprise the Smithsonian
by the blasted heath.In this furnace,
entrepreneurial types fleece the public by selling ice-cold water at
prices.I will never be that thirsty.
walked up to and around the Washington Memorial, took a peek at the
Memorial, wite the long reflecting pool with the Lincoln Memorial at
end, and then followed the line of shade-giving trees look at the White
it’s a house, and someone obviously
waters the lawn.
this point, exhausted by the heat, we took refuge in the closest public
building, which happened to be the Smithsonian’s AmericanHistoryMuseum.The
museums are fantastic, and we enjoyed our
first glimpse enough that we eventually headed to the Natural History
next door.Dinosaurs for Gavi, the Hope
Diamond for me… it was just fine!
Hope Diamond (above) and a Stegosaurus skeleton (left) help populate
the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum.
this time, the furnace outside had cooled to a gentle blast, and we
walking tour.We traced the
circumference of the Tidal Pool to see the Jefferson Memorial (a
Grecian temple, including a larger-than-life statue of the dedicatory
inside), then the FDR Memorial, a wonderful architectural poem in rock
water, and finally the Lincoln Memoral (under renovation: do not cross
orange fence) before walking across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to
catch the Metro at Arlington Cemetary.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
out from the Jefferson Memorial
looming, tall: Washington
Monument. Its Finger
says ‘up yours!’
to Washington today.We
started off at the Capitol to see what, if anything,
lay beyond.It looks like once you ignore
Memorials, it might be an OK city after all.Nice
old brick townhomes speak of not inconsiderable
incomes on the
parts of their owners.We walked back to
find the Canadian Embassy, which says nothing for Canadian
then hit the Air & SpaceMuseum.
is one where, I must admit, the boys had more fun than the girls.Eventually we braved the blasted heath again
to have a snack and return to the AmericanHistoryMuseum to see a couple of
exhibits we’d missed the previous day, namely the original
of song, in all its faded glory.
we returned to the hotel (at a reasonable hour for a change) we tracked
Indian buffet take-away place thatprovided
us all with a terrific dinner, including Dassa,
who ate half
her body weight in chana masala.
Stop, turn back the
centuries fade away; Walk
into the past.
we left the D.C. area to head further south.The
drive to Williamsburg is about 150 miles, which
passed quickly on the Interstate.Quite
by accident, we changed up Stonewall Jackson’s “Shrine,” where we
learned something about him.His death,
at age 39, was not from battle, but rather from pneumonia, exacerbated
arm wound.“This is the bed in which he
died… this is the blanket that covered him…”A
Romantic figure, never fading out of his prime, never
the Union army.
arrived in Williamsburg very early, and so
continued on to Jamestown, established in 1607 as
the first permanent English settlement in the New World.The exact
location of the settlement was lost
until quite recently, and archeological work continues.
historical appetites whetted, we continued to the site of Colonial
itself.Restored and recreated by
Rockefeller in the ‘20s, the site is an utter delight.The whole village has become a living museum,
where costumed guides, actors and trades people immerse the visitor in
life in a colonial capital.We wandered,
getting a sense of the lay of the land, and eventually went to find our
were also a delight.The Williamsburg
Plantation Resort ranks up there in terms of elegance and class.The huge outdoor pool helps too.
planned for an earlyish start to the day, and took a quick drive
passes for downtown Williamsburg before finding a parking
at the Visitors’ Center and walking back in time to the eve of the
Revolution.This time, we focused on the
shops at the west end of the historical village, exploring a wonderful
and some other specialty shops before settling on the Cheese Shop as
for lunch.A few small tubs of salad, a
loaf of bread and two hunks of cheese set us back over $30, but we
Princess Hadassah has a fancy for artisanal French sheep’s milk cheese.Ahem.It’s an
looked completely natural in his new woolen tricorn, and we walked the
of the town again before returning to complete some purchases and then
back to the resort for a swim and supper.
first stop today was Yorktown, where the American Revolution
came to its successful end.A visitor’s
centre opens onto the battlefields on one side, and a path leading to
sleepy town on the other.Ancient
British, French and American entrenchments remain to mark the siege
the cannons make great backdrops for photographs.
Yorktown is set at a narrowing of the massive York River, before it opens up into Chesapeake Bay, and there is a nice beach
area and marina along the waterfront.We
wandered for a while, then got back into the car and followed a driving
the battlefields, before grabbing a quick lunch and heading into Norfolk.
This is the narrow part of the
Norfolk strikes me as an
inconvenient necessity that residents are trying to make the best of.There are seedy strips dotted with fancy new
development all along the waterfront, and the Botanical Gardens
are very pleasant, but back directly onto the runway of the airport.Dinner took us the short drive to Virginia Beach, where Gavi had his first
view of the open ocean.
August 23: She smells seashells…
was a different day.We Julie and the
kids at Julie’s mother’s house, near the Botanical Gardens, and visited
while.We were invited into a neighbour’s back yard, where we were
presented with some of his award-winning roses, complete with fern
frond, in a
Rafi’s suggestion, we all went downtown to see the Battleship Wisconsin, part of the Nauticus (http://www.thenmc.org/) marine
centre.The ship was certainly a hit
with the male members of the party.
lunch at a food court, we parted ways, leaving Julie to spend the
with her old piano teacher while we became temporary beach bums.It’s clearly low season, since we had a
choice of parking spaces a block off the beach.
children enjoyed the beach, just not the same aspects of it!
Notice Gavi's deep tan.
took to the ocean like a fish to water, but Dassa was less enthusiastic.She eventually decided that playing in the
sand was preferable to getting wet, until she announced,
bum tore.”And sure enough, there,
sopping wet and caked in sand, she had filled her nappy. Putting on a
involved carrying a naked and screaming child down to the dreaded water
rinse off then sand, and then holding her high above the beach until
dry enough to clothe again.
August 24: Home again, home again
and a half hours of driving driving, driving.We
got to Pittsburgh by nightfall, and even
managed to rescue our VERY IMPORTANT BAG from Olive Garden before they
closed.You know the bag… the one with
the wallet, the camera, the passports… the perfect bag to leave under a
at a restaurant.
August 25: Home at last
took a quick peek at the amazing downtown Pittsburgh has, where the three
rivers come together so beautifully and dramatically.What a great city!Then, we
headed to the outlet mall north of
the city, where we arrived an hour late thanks to highway construction
blocked up the Interstate to the point where it took us a half hour to
just over a mile.
clothes bought and money spent, we suffered through more construction
extremely busy border crossing before finally getting home much later
few random thoughts:
Never travel without a can opener, a
garlic press and a blender.
My highway is busier than your highway.Everyone warned us about the traffic around Washington, and while we never saw rush hour, we
did drive the Beltway at on a Thursday morning.It’s busy, yes, but the 401 in Toronto is busier than that at 10 at night.
What’s up with the yield signs at the
bottoms of on-ramps to the highways?That’s
when you’re supposed to be speeding up to get into traffic.And worse… the STOP signs?Oy gevult!
It seems to be accepted practice in Virginia to place road signs right behind
protruding pieces of foliage.Can’t find
the sign you need?Just look behind the
tree.In Pennsylvania, the local variation is to place the
sign behind another, much less important sign.
Dassa’s comments on the trip: “Drive,
drive, drive.Pram, pram, pram.Drive, drive, drive…”