DAY 72 August 4, 2009

I started my day off by heading into Wilmington, DE. There were numerous brick two story townhouses. I found many of the street signs missing (were they ever there to begin with?). The River Front area is beautiful. It is apparent that the city is attempting to revitalize its downtown area-it appears to be working for them. The downtown area appeared to be very clean. Just north of town must be a very wealthy area. The DuPonts settled this area and it shows. There are some glorious old and new estates to the north of downtown Wilmington.

I stopped off for dollar Tuesdays in August at the Delaware Museum of Natural History, about 5 miles north of downtown. This is a very nice exhibit. I enjoyed learning about prehistoric life, deep sea life, crustaceans and mammals. I bought a fossil and a rock in their gift shop to support such a worthy location.

Going into southern Pennsylvania from Delaware results in an extreme change of scenery! It is absolutely gorgeous-just like the postcards show. I can't show you pictures because I was on two lane roads with absolutely nowhere to pull off. The land is comprised of hills and agriculture dotted with the occasional large farmstead. I can not even come close to describing the bucolic beauty of this area with words. This is a definite must see-add it to your bucket list!

Chester County was amazing with its ups and downs (these are really good size hills), lots of cows (including a herd of what we call oreo cows-if you have seen these black beauties with a white strip down their middle you know why) pastures, corn, tobacco, tall trees, and berry bushes along the roadside. Lancaster County shifted to a more rolling type hills, more housing, and denser agriculture. I was surprised to see a second crop of corn in (about 2 feet tall) as the first (about 6 feet tall) is about to be harvested. They must have quite the growing season here. I have seen a lot of agricultural landscapes in my life and cannot remember ever seeing any as beautiful as today's. Words cannot do the description justice.

I became quite distressed the closer I got to Lancaster. They have really commercialized the heck out of this place. Oh well, I will get back into the country side tomorrow.

I ate dinner at Bob Evans and enjoyed the knife and fork meatloaf sandwich. It is a piece of toast topped with mashed potatoes, meatloaf, cheese, and gravy. It was very good, as was the piece of french silk pie I had. I usually don't eat dessert, but I was quite hungry and it looked really good. The service was exceptional!

I stayed at the EconoLodge South (right across the street from the newer EconoLodge North). This is a much older hotel that has been updated. The room was clean, with comfy beds, a tiny refrigerator, and very limited cable TV. Good enough for the night and the price was certainly right!

Here's your Sign: Welcome to Wilmington "A Place to be Somebody"

ROUTE: DE 72 East> DE 2 East> DE 48 South & North> DE 52 North> Route 926 West> DE 10 South> Route 896 North> US 30 West to Lancaster, PA

Lodging: EconoLodge South 2140 US 30 East Lancaster, PA

Bob Evans US 30 Lancaster, PA (****Food ****Service)

$$$: $12 Meals $10 Museum $49 Motel = $71


DAY 71 August 3, 2009

Are you forgetful? Go to Eastern Maryland. They will let you know each mile for four miles how far the next three towns are. Is there such a thing as oversignage? I have seen a mileage sign for the same three cities four times in the last five miles.

Easton has an amazing collection of different types of architecture. Some of the homes and churches are absolutely gorgeous! They are interestingly very close to the street, with front doors only 5-6 feet from the pavement.

The visitor center in Cambridge, MD is quite nice and staffed with knowledgeable, helpful people. It is located in the Sailwinds Park at the south end of the bridge coming into Cambridge. They had a very nice selection of literature and a wonderful exhibit about the local economy and environment of the region. Even more interesting was their exhibit on the Underground Railroad. Harriett Tubman was a resident of this area and a huge force in establishing/maintaining the assistance to those escaping the oppression of slavery. It was an exceptional experience.

The homes in Cambridge are beautiful, huge homes. The street I went down (High St) was paved with red bricks (very quaint). The marina was very nice and would be nice to take a nice stroll around the area enjoying all the beauty of the area. I would note that this is a very clean city. It appears to be well kept and well loved.

Driving into Vienna (the tiny little town that time and the highway passed by), right after the sign that said “wildlife corridor”, low and behold there were two white tail deer crossing the road. They ran to the far side of the field and stood there to observe me looking at them. They were a chestnut brown color, unlike our deer in the Rocky Mountains which tend to be a more grayish brown tone. After visiting the Salisbury Zoo and seeing black-tailed prairie dogs (indigenous to the Rocky Mountains) that also had a reddish hue to their fur (whereas ours are more of a blonde/light brown color), I am wondering what effect their diets and environment have on their coloring???

Back on the highway, I passed a roadside picnic area with about half a dozen tables. This made me think of how people used to travel. They would pack up the food they thought they would need for the trip and stop occasionally at these roadside rest areas and waysides to eat and “stretch their bones.” Oh how different it is today. These little areas are virtually deserted. While I travel with a “pantry” in my vehicle, most people rely on a six pack and some light snacks to get them between food joints on their trail.

Another interesting thing is the ability of people to understand the regional differences not only in food, but the type of establishments available. As you know, I have fallen in love with the Waffle House. I am still seeing them in Maryland, but they are no longer two locations to an interstate exit like further south. I remember talking to a young lady about just finding the Waffle House and how much I enjoyed it. She seemed incredulous that there were no Waffle Houses, or even Huddle Houses (very similar), back west. It always amazes me how little people realize our differences, even within this country, when they have not travelled outside of their local region. They assume that everything is basically the same as what they experience across the land. This is just not the case. While we share many commonalities, there are significant differences even within the United States.

As I work my way down the highway in Maryland, I am noticing tons of roadside produce stands. They are so frequent, that I would say don’t fret if you pass one-another one is surely coming up.

As mentioned above, the next stop was the free Salisbury Zoo (take Business 50 into town, right on Business 13, left on Main Street, right on Hwy 12, left onto Park-I give the directions because the signage is spotty).

I loved the pair of river otter that were very active. I asked two of the attendants about the feeding of the animals and if they scattered or hid the food around the enclosure (as the otters appeared to be searching the rocks for food). They call this enrichment and let me know that the USDA (which regulates animal treatment in zoos and research labs) now requires enrichment for some primates and that most zoos (even the smaller ones) are moving toward this with many of their charges.

The most exciting part of this stop was my interaction with the black jaguar. When I approached the enclosure he was napping. I did my purr call and he twitched, but would not pay any attention to me until the crowd finally subsided. He then granted my request to turn his head toward me. Beautiful does not begin to describe the magnificence of this being. I was in absolute awe, as I stood there under his amazing gaze. The young man that I had been talking to about the other animals asked me how I got him to move his head (because he knew I had asked the creature to do so). I told him that I did not understand exactly how it happens, but that I seem to have a gift that allows me to communicate with some animals (particularly felines). I am just very grateful that the large cat granted my request.

I drove the bypass around Ocean City and was thankful to avoid about half of the approximately 15 miles of high rises blocking the view of the beach. I did appreciate that the traffic patterns here make sense and keep the cars moving through the area, unlike that of Myrtle Beach. Just as I crossed into Delaware, the building heights dropped dramatically and the usage became more residential.

Just inside the border was a wonderful little visitor center that was well worth the stop. The attendant there claimed that the Southern Delaware beaches had been rated some of the best on the East coast. Well that is great, but you can’t see them unless you pay to enter one of the guarded beach areas. I finally got a glimpse of the wide beaches with a strong surf as I crossed the bridge back onto the mainland. I didn’t see anything obviously spectacular about the beach, but I did think it amazingly inane to place a public beach right next to the rock lined causeway under the bridge to the mainland. The surf was literally crashing against the rocks. Maybe that is why it is guarded?

I took a brief side trip into Lewes, the first town of the first state. Delaware was apparently the first state to sign the US Constitution. The area was replete with Victoria homes sporting glorious gingerbread. It looks like the area has been very adept a restoring these old beauties. The 4 block downtown area was nicely done, as was the marina area. Both were quite walkable and inviting.

My side trip to Milford was very disappointing. I found nothing to warrant the side trip. My suggestion, just stay on the highway.

Smyrna, Delaware has a 24 hour fully staffed visitor center on Highway 13 northbound side. The restrooms were clean. The staff was helpful and they even had a lot of information for the neighboring states.

I finally found my way to the Sleep Inn in Newark, DE. I have to say that I am growing increasing unsatisfied. I specifically asked if they had a good, fast internet connection before checking in because I had 2-3 hours worth of work to do. The clerk assured me that they did. Well it is running at an astounding 11 mbps (SLOW!). Then there is the crazy light over the desk area. Without rhyme or reason it comes on and goes off. Then let’s talk about the fact that there were no wash cloths in my room with the badly cracked vanity and the front desk said that I would have to come down and get them myself. To add to the irritation, the a/c unit is spastic and noisy, but not nearly noisy enough to cover up the very loud television in the neighboring room. I did appreciate how the desk clerk handled this within 15 minutes when I called a little after 1 am. The room seemed clean, but upon further inspection there is mold in the shower area and the floor is dirty. Finally, let’s hope, with over 75 channels there is no Travel Channel on the TV. What is this world coming to? Okay, so the last one is a joke. But you get the idea.

Breakfast was a pretty standard continental one-I guess waffles make it "deluxe". In retrospect, I will have to say that I really appreciate Jennifer's help last night (I was having problems with my choice privilege account). The room was clean enough, but this was not the 2.5-3 star type of accommodations I was expecting. I would stay again, but my expectations would be adjusted.

ROUTE: US 50 South> MD 90 West> MD 528 North> DE 1 North> US 13 North> DE 72 West

Lodging: Sleep Inn Newark, DE


$$$: $67 Motel $14 Fuel $2 Soda = $83


DAY 70 August 2, 2009

The day dawned rainy with predictions of thunderstorms for the afternoon. With that in mind, I hung back at the hotel for most of the morning and did some travel planning. I packed a separate bag in case I decided to go to the Hilltop Hostel, but they were completely booked.

I drove into the district and toured the major monuments by car (no parking). The Holocaust Museum was at the top of my list for the day, but there was absolutely NO parking to be had anywhere in a 3 block radius. Second on the list was the reopened Museum of American History-no parking on that street, but I lucked out at the Smithsonian Castle.
Just as I parked the skies opened up again-oh well at least I was close to the entrance. I briefly toured the castle (locating a flask given to General Phillip Sheridan - a distant relative) and walked through the puddles and light drizzle to the opposite side of the mall.

I headed down the street to my desired destination of the Museum of American History. Shortly after I arrived, I joined the highlights tour and stayed with them all the way up to the military history area (they were not touring this area). I decided this was something I really wanted to see (found General Sheridan's sword and scabbard from the Civil War) and there was not much of a line (comparatively that is). I checked out (at least briefly) most of the exhibits and moved on to the Museum of Natural History.
The place was PACKED. I quickly wandered through the mammals and ocean areas and headed to move my car, as my time had almost expired.

After circling the block only once, I found a decent parking space for touring the Museum of the American Indian. This was something I had been rushed through last time I was here and wanted to check out more. I had missed the Mitsitam Cafe last time and wanted to check it out this time. It was nearing closing time and the food was showing its heat lamp age. I am sure most of it was quite tasty for the lunch crowd, but the only thing that looked appealing to me was the roasted corn at the Meso America stand. The young lady grabbed a fresh piece of roasted corn, slathered it with some kind of spicy mayonaisse looking sauce, sprinkled it with queso fresca, and put two small pieces of lime on the plate (for less than $4). I noticed two employees eating the same thing as I bit into my spicy delicacy. The flavor was wonderfully smoky (the corn was grilled) with spice from the sauce and cooling element of the cheese. When I sprinkled the ear with lime juice the flavor changed completely and became even better with the acidic addition. All too soon the corn was gone, so I toured the museum and stopped in the second floor gift shop. During my stay I watched part of a video about the outdoor exhibit that was built on site.

Back to the car, where I decided to go ahead and try to find the famous Ben's Chili Bowl. Finding it was not the problem, parking definitely was a challenge-but I was hungry! Hint: there is parking behind the restaurant on Ben Ali Street (heading west on U Street you turn right just past the restaurant. The place was packed and became even more so as I stood in line to order my dinner. I ordered the notorious "half smoke" with the standard fixings (mustard, minced onions, and the glorious chili) and a chili cheese fries. I was kind of shocked to be paying almost $6 for fries, but let me tell you I later found them to be worth every penny! While none of the ingredients by themselves are amazing, the combinations were completely wonderful. I do not know what addictive additive they add to that chili, but I am still dreaming of it. This is a definite must doo if you are in the district. My only other suggestion is to take a friend and have them grab a seat while you stand in line-if there are at least 6 in your party you can get table service. The orders coming out to stay looked even better than my take order. I think they lose something when they get qrapped up in foil-so try to get that seat.

The Bay Bridge across from Annapolis to Grasonville was horrible! Over an hour to move about 15 miles! And they charged me for this pleasure.

I was very happy to find that the Holiday Inn Express was honoring their coupon rate (www.roomsavers.com). The room is quite pleasant and I received a waterview room as a bonus. The bed is divine, the large flat screen a welcomed sight to watch the finale of the Next Food Network Star, and I love their toiletries and linens.

ROUTE: VA 7 South> I-66 East> US 50 East

Lodging: Holiday Inn Express in Grasonville, MD

Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian Cafe- Mitsitam
Ben's Chili Bowl

$$$: $3 Toll Bridge $16 Meals $8 Souvenir $66 Hotel = $93


DAY 69 August 1, 2009

After a nice breakfast at the Hampton Inn & Suites, I moved to my next hotel (closer to town). I checked in about 11 am and the desk attendant graciously assigned my room and upgraded me to a king room-yeah! I dropped my luggage and grabbed the shuttle to the metroline station.

I decided on Old Town Alexandria for the day. They had several special events with free admission to several places I was interested in touring. I caught the free King Street trolley and jumped off for the Friendship Firehouse. They were having a street fair out front. There are some interesting pieces of equipment here!

Next I rode the trolley down to the waterfront and back up to the visitor center at the Ramsay House. I grabbed a brochure and walked up the street to the Carlyle House Historic Park-another freebie for the day. I toured the second floor of the mansion, looked out on the beautiful gardens, and then wandered over to the bank building to hear a lecture on medical care of the late 18th century-particularly midwifery. It was a very enlightening presentation that I enjoyed immensely.

Next on my list was Gadsby's Tavern and Tavern Museum. I had planned on grabbing a bite to eat, but they were closed for a private event. I toured the museum and headed out to find something to eat. I ran across Bread & Chocolate on King Street and picked up a cheese danish-apparently they were 50% off (maybe due to the lateness of the day???). So I got a yummy little treat (croissant filled with cheese) and paid a pittance for it-BONUS!

I caught the trolley back to the metroline station. I greatfully took my seat-boy my feet hurt. When I arrived back at the original station, I called the hotel as directed. She indicated that the guy should be at the station right then, so I ran for the guy arms flailing (with four other guests). He looked at us and proceeded to drive off! I called to complain to the front desk and ask them to call him, but she told me we would just have to wait for the next shuttle in 30 minutes. The other family was livid-they had called and made arrangements for the pick up. He should have been expecting them. Well, needless to say there was no tip for the trip back.

The shuttle passed a Lebanese restaurant that appeared to be very well attended. I jumped in my car and drove back for some much needed nourishment. I ordered the lamb & beef shawerma platter with rice and salad and the very traditional mazza platter (hummus, babagannouge, tabbouleh, falafel, stuffed grape leave, kibbeh, and fattoush). The service was very prompt and friendly. Unfortunately the meat was dry, the rice was not very fresh, and the salad was watery. As for the mazza platter, the grape leaf was probably the best I have ever had (fresh), the hummus was kind of bland but mixed well with the dry rice, the babagannouge was very tart, the falafel was dry but good when dipped in either dip, the fattoush salad was tasty especially the little pieces of toasted pita that had soaked up the dressing, the kibbeh was divine, but the taboulleh was mainly parsley with scarcely any bulgur or other spices. Overall, it hit the spot but was definitely not the best Lebanese food I have had and the prices were not low for the quality and quantity.

Back in the room, I found it to be quite comfortable and very clean. The breakfast the next morning was unimpressive. I got a couple of bagels with cream cheese and a muffin that I fed to the birds. They did have waffles, but I was just not interested. I would have rather had some fresh fruit (not the canned fruit salad offered) and fruit juice.

ROUTE: VA 28 North> VA 7 South> Washington Metroline to Alexandria and back

Lodging: Comfort Inn Tysons Corner, VA

Labnan Zaman 8411 Old Courthouse Rd-Vienna, VA (703) 748-1400 http://lebnan-zaman.com/
Bread & Chocolate 611 King Street-Alexandria 703 548 0992 http://www.breadandchocolate.net

$$$: $66 Hotel $20 Meals $5 Metroline = $91


DAY 68 July 31, 2009

Started the day off going out to Henricus Park which is supposed to be a historical site with people modeling the behaviors of the times. All I found was the gift shop locked and three apparent employees that did not so much as say hello to me. Guess I will keep my $5 and take a few photos gratis.

On to the first stop in the Richmond National Park. Drewry's Bluff (Fort Darling) is supposed to be well preserved. I arrived with the only other vehicle in the area being the ranger's. I met him as I was walking in and said hello. The further I walked the less sure I was of how much further I would need to travel and the more cognizant of the fact that I was out in the woods without a cell phone by myself except for the insects feasting on my poor body. I gave up and ran for the protection of my vehicle.

Next stop the official visitor center of the Richmond National Park at the old Tredegar Iron Works. I was surprised at the $3 per hour parking fee, but took my ticket and headed up the hill to view their very interesting video. This video actually put the Civil War from beginning (Manassas) to end (Richmond) into perspective. I feel like this is a must do stop for anyone traveling the Civil War Trail.

Next stop was Maymount-very hard for me to find with all the one way streets in the area. Once I arrived the weather was threatening rain, so I toured the east side of the grounds quickly. I enjoyed the display of various carriages, sleighs, and buggies in the Carriage House. I made it to the Mansion just in time to join the "children's tour" called Lions in the Library ($5). The guide told us that there were over 400 depictions of animals in this very elaborate home. The home even had running water and electric/gas lights, which was virtually unheard of in the late 1800's. The couple (James and Sallie Dooley) were quite wealthy from his railroad endeavors and no cast was spared in the public portion of the home. Back out to the car ahead of the storm, but not the wind.
I headed up to see the monuments on Monument Drive and then over to the Maggie L Walker Historic Site (NPS). I enjoyed learning about Ms Walker's pursuits-first female banker-via the video in the visitor center. I found it amazing that she was not only female, but black and had amazing success in her business pursuits. She was born at the end of the Civil War and women did not accomplish these type of feats at that time. They offer a tour of the house, but I was pressed for time and the rain had subsided enough to safely get to my car across the street.

On to Chimborazo Hospital (part of the Richmond NPS) at the other end of town. They show an interesting video depicting medical care during the Civil War and have a nice exhibit of medical paraphernalia. The yellow flage flying meant that it was a military hospital. I also learned that when a woman (name?) fussed enough about having her private hospital pressed into service by the military she was commissioned as an officer (captain?)-the only female in the Civil War.

The final stop of the day was the Holocaust Museum. I admit that I teared up several times-such inhumanity. I was quite unaware that, even after D-Day and Germany's surrender, the Jews continued to suffer displacement at the hands of their rescuers. It absolutely breaks my heart that my own country turned away refugees of this war. I cannot image how it must have felt to have been refused sanctuary by so many, even those professing assistance. So incredibly sad.

I walked out of the last site at almost straight up 5 pm on this Friday afternoon, but the traffic was not horrible until I passed Fredericksburg. I wandered up to Sterling for the night and was very pleasantly surprised that the manager had upgraded my room to a king studio suite. What an absolutely beautiful accommodation! I made the mistake of attempting to find sustenance in Sterling. After becoming VERY lost, I located a Popeye's Chicken and was pleasantly surprised by how tasty their chicken bowl was. It had beans and rice topped with unbreaded chicken strips and cheese. The food was good, but the service at this location was no better than that in Florida.

ROUTE: US 1 North> Downtown Richmond> I 95 North> VA 234 West> VA 28 North

Lodging: Hampton Inn & Suites Sterling, VA

Popeye's Chicken

$$$: $65 Hotel $3 Parking $5 Tour $5 Meal $26 Fuel = $104


DAY 67 July 30, 2009

After breakfast at the hotel, I headed over to Fort Lee Military Base. After obtaining permission to enter, I proceeded to the Women in the Military Museum. I enjoyed learning about how women began to be engaged in the military and found a reference to my relative Phillip Sheridan and his female assistant during the Civil War. I also learned about how the WACS were formed. I found it very disheartening to learn that while females were paid the same as males stateside, they did not receive the overseas compensation or other benefits that males did. Oh well, while somethings have changed for the worse (discrepancies in pay) others (benefits for all) have improved.

Next, I walked over to the Quartermaster Museum. I learned about dogs parachuting and other means used to supply the military during wartime. Interesting information and exhibits.

The National Park Service (NPS) has a Petersburg Site that spans a large distance. I started at the visitors center and watched the video to get an idea of what happened here. Basically Grant laid seige to Petersburg and prevented the Confederates from resupplying-essentially ending the conflict. I wandered through the exhibits at the visitor center, stamped my passport, and drove the one way loop through sites 1-8 (there are 5 more sites further down the road). Then I headed for Hopewell.

I enjoyed some fried clams, fries, and hushpuppies at Long John Silver's in Hopewell and then headed over to see the Sears & Roebuck Catalog Homes. This was a planned community to serve Dupont employees and had very high standards. The Sears homes were prefabricated homes that were ordered with variations throught the catalog, shipped to the building site, and then assembled. They were all nice looking homes that remind me of quite a few homes that I have seen throughout the years. This was a very unique display of history.

My last destination for the day was Grant's Headquarter's at City Point. This is where he managed the seige from and met with Lincoln at. He basically set up camp and a military hospital at the Appomattox Plantation. I watched a brief video in the plantation's homestead, toured the out buildings, and enjoyed the shear drops and views of the river.

I checked in to the Hampton Inn in Chester after roaming the immediate area and finding nothing of interest. This is a repurposed Hampton and that always bugs me a little. I have come to expected a certain type of set up for most Hampton Inns and it throws me off to find ones that have previously operated outside the Hilton system. That being said the room was very nice and the cleanest Hampton I have stayed in since Alpine, Texas. I was assigned a room on the second floor (by request) but found that the closer I got to my room the stronger some chemical fumes became (they were painting). I went back downstairs and requested a first floor room explaining that I was sensitive to some chemicals and these were bothering me. The desk clerk reassigned my room promptly and courteously. Her manager apologized stating that they were painting. This manager went beyond what was expected and I appreciate the hospitality, cleanliness, and service I received at this location. I needed to do laundry today and found the laundry room complete with a big flat screen television (a very nice touch).

ROUTE: Colonial Heights, VA to Chester, VA (only 8 miles by interstate, but I wandered around the Hopewell area). VA 144 East> VA 36 West> Park Service Road> US 301 North>VA 36 East> VA 10 West.

Lodging: Hampton Inn Chester, VA

Long John Silver's Hopewell, VA

$$$: $73 Hotel $8 Toiletries $6 Meal $2 Laundry = $89