Home Again, Home Again

Day 52: Thursday, June 20, 2013
Start: Duncannon, PA
End: Amherst, NH
Miles Driven Today: 450
Total Miles: 9,378

It’s over. I’m sitting here in my easy chair, getting used to home again. There’s a huge pile of mail to sort through. Bags to unpack. Laundry to be done. But that’s for tomorrow.

We had another lovely visit with Bob and Sharon yesterday. Sitting around the kitchen table, we caught up on the trip and the happenings in the almost two months since we last saw them. It was a nice respite before the final sprint home, and visiting with good friends was a fit way to start and end this grand adventure.

Of course, Jasmine felt right at home and climbed up onto the kitchen table. Perhaps she wanted to get in on the conversation. Or perhaps, she was just a little thirsty!

Singha! Jasmine's favorite brand!

Singha! Jasmine’s favorite brand!

Juliet spent the evening searching for food. She sniffed (and snarfed) every inch of the house, looking for tidbits of food that the resident dog, Lily, had dropped on the floor, under furniture, etc. She was driving us nuts! I think we’ve created a monster… 🙂

Buddies

Buddies

We have marveled at how much both dogs have changed throughout this journey. Jasmine is much quicker to acclimate to a new situation. She co-existed with Lily after a few minutes. Perhaps it’s because she had met Lily on the way out. But climbing on the table, accepting treats from everyone, and running around the house without her tail between her legs…such progress. Juliet is so much more curious, confident and STUBBORN. True Dachshund traits are coming out. But what’s really great is to see the two dogs finally bonding.

Our final leg of open road

Our final leg of open road

We’ve had a great run. NOTHING bad happened to us. No flat tires. No pickpockets. No items stolen from our room. No car trouble. Rarely any crowds. No tornadoes. No forest fires. We’ve had an incredible experience and the trip of a lifetime. I’ll summarize it all this weekend, after a bit of sleep and settling in!

Today’s travels were long, but relatively easy. There had been an accident on the bridge through Harrisburg a few weeks ago, so we decided to skip going through Harrisburg and went some backroads to reach the Interstate. So, once again, we had some picturesque travels across open roads.

But we were soon motoring our way back to New Hampshire. We flowed through New York, retracing some of our route on the Turnpike to the East of the Catskills and then through Mass and up home to New Hampshire. We hit very little heavy traffic except for areas with road work. Even then, we made it home in around 8 hours.

Back to New York

Back to New York

Massachusetts - We skipped it on the way out

Massachusetts – We skipped it on the way out

Close to home

Close to home

Waiting for us when we got home was a huge pile of mail, some packages we sent home, and Tom’s prized piece of Acoma pottery that we purchased in Albuquerque. It was a great welcome home, along with an in-tact house (thanks Sam!).

Acoma Pottery by Michael & Robin Romero

Acoma Pottery by Michael & Robin Romero

All is well. We’re a bit sad that the trip is over. But there’s really no place like home. As we were driving the last few minutes until we reached our house, I looked at the lush landscape that we call home. We’ve seen a lot of beautiful places and driven some wonderful open road. But seeing our town…the road home rivals any of the picturesque and quaint backroads we took.

It’s good to be back.

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Back in Pennsylvania

Day 51: Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Start: Winchester, VA
End: Duncannon, PA
Miles Driven Today: 141
Total Miles: 8,928

Today was a day to visit friends. We started out in Winchester and headed just 30 minutes East to visit one of Tom’s former colleagues, Paris Resnick. Paris now owns and runs the Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm in Berryville, VA.

It was a short but lovely drive to the farm. Our open road was quite nice.

Today's open road - Berryville, VA

Today’s open road – Berryville, VA

We were soon at the farm. Perfectly manicured Christmas trees greeted us at the foot of the driveway.

Arriving at Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm

Arriving at Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm

As we pulled up the driveway, we saw a fabulous log cabin. There was a huge wrap-around porch (which we later found out wrapped ALL the way around the large house).

Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm - Log Cabin

Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm – Log Cabin

We got a tour of the place. They have a nice variety of trees. What was great was that it was quiet…but not. Tons of birds were chirping and darting amongst the trees; sweet voices surrounded us. We spotted a bunny in the blueberry patch. There were nests all around the rafters. A little paradise!

The farm does (not surprisingly) almost all of their business between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but many people come out in October to pick and tag their trees. The farm will also be hosting a wine tasting in October with a local winery. Taste a bit of vino, pick out a tree…come back and cut it down. Sweet!

Tom and Paris

Tom and Paris

The inside of the house was even more spectacular than the outside! And the handmade crafts were fabulous! Kathy, Paris’ wife, paints and their daughter makes stained glass and fused glass (we bought an ornament). The farm also has jams, jellies and syrups made specifically for them. I picked up a jug or two of Brandy Vanilla Syrup. YUM!

We said goodbye to the Resnicks and motored on to Duncannon, PA to visit Bob and Sharon. Our route took us through an unusual part of the area where we were in three states in a matter of five minutes. We traveled from West Virginia to Virginia and into Maryland in a short spell! What travelers we are!

Hello there Maryland!

Hello there Maryland!

We were soon in Pennsylvania and headed for our final destination.

Hello again, Pennsylvania!

Hello again, Pennsylvania!

It was good to be in familiar territory! We started out our journey here; it was fitting that this be our last stop! Jasmine was looking forward to the visit!

Checkin' out the scenery

Checkin’ out the scenery

Perhaps Jasmine likes it here because she gets away with a lot. She climbed onto the kitchen table from my lap. Sharon’s response? “She’s allowed to do that HERE!” 🙂

Dogs are allowed on the kitchen table here!

Dogs are allowed on the kitchen table here!

We’ll stay the night here, and then we’re heading HOME. Yes, our journey is coming to an end.

Of course, before we left for home, we had to see one more thing…

First there was Margaretville, then...

First there was Margaretville, then…

Blue Ridge Parkway Into Virginia

Day 49: Monday, June 17, 2013
Start: Wilkesboro, NC
End: Salem, VA
Miles Driven Today: 176
Total Miles: 8,550

Today’s adventure continued our trek up the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway. Thankfully, I had picked up a book at the Asheville visitor’s center – Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This book not only gives a history of the Parkway, but mile-by-mile info on the best sights and stops. The descriptions of each of the overlooks, views and historic buildings also come with the origins of the names and any historic significance. Like the Route 66 Guide we used, this has been a little treasure that has greatly enhanced our trip on the Parkway.

Today's open road - Blue Ridge Parkway

Today’s open road – Blue Ridge Parkway

Welcome to Virginia

Welcome to Virginia

Stone Bridge - Blue Ridge Parkway

Stone Bridge – Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the more delightful stops was at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Often hosting summer concerts at their outdoor amphitheater in the summer, the center also has a nice museum that showcases the roots of American music. We stopped to have a nice break from the road; we didn’t expect that there would be any performances on a Monday afternoon. We were wrong. We were treated to the music of the Buck Mountain Band. Banjo, fiddle, guitar, stand-up bass and some traditional Bluegrass music…they got our toes tapping! Of course, the girls enjoyed the music too!

Buck Mountain Band at the Blue Ridge Music Center

Buck Mountain Band at the Blue Ridge Music Center

Everyone's paws were tappin' - Buck Mountain Band

Everyone’s paws were tappin’

We stayed for a little while and then decided to move on down the road. We’ve had nearly perfect weather since we started this trip. We had three rainy days since the start–two while we were staying in Kentucky and one on the road when we were motoring from Colorado to Kentucky. Of course, in the span of the five minutes that it took to get the car, the skies opened up. As we drove down the road, the rain caused poor visibility and fog banks steaming off the ground. This didn’t make sense to us…it was 65 degrees out!

Instant fog - Blue Ridge Parkway

Instant fog – Blue Ridge Parkway

Where are we? Pea soup land!

Where are we? Pea soup land!

We were headed to the historic Mabry Mil, and I was concerned that we’d be rained out. The mill is one of the most photographed areas on the Parkway…I didn’t want to miss my photo op! Well, I was not disappointed. By the time we reached the Mabry Mill a few minutes later, the skies had cleared and the sun was peeking through. Stellar!

The mill was beautiful. While it’s not a working mill anymore, there was a craftsman demonstrating the creation of handmade chairs (historically correct, using the same tools as those used during the mill’s operation). The grounds were very beautiful, and the air was clean and cool.

Mabry Mill - Blue Ridge Parkway

Mabry Mill – Blue Ridge Parkway (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Mabry Mill - Blue Ridge Parkway

Mabry Mill – Blue Ridge Parkway. The clouds parted just for us! (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Moonshine exhibit - Mabry Mill

Moonshine exhibit – Mabry Mill

There were more vistas along the way, but much of it was rained out for us. However, we did stop at Devil’s Backbone (mainly for the great name).

Devil's Backbone - Blue Ridge Parkway

Devil’s Backbone – Blue Ridge Parkway (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Once again, the girls have been great. However, Juliet learned a new trick–jump from the back seat on TOP of the luggage in the back cargo area. Bad monkey! She’s getting bolder every day!

Little angels? Not that cherub on the left!

Little angels? Not that cherub on the left!

Tonight, we’re hunkered down at the La Quinta in Salem, VA (suburb of Roanoke)–a free night due to our frequent traveler points accumulated during this trip! Tomorrow, we’ll finish the Blue Ridge Parkway and traverse Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park (thanks John…we were planning this but your suggestion cemented our plans). We’ll then settle for the night in Winchester, VA and then head to Central PA to visit our friends Bob and Sharon for a night and regale them with our travel stories.

We began this trip visiting Bob and Sharon and the Michels family. It’s so nice that we are able to start and end a great trip with good friends.

Kentucky and the Bourbon Trail

Days 45 & 46: Thursday, June 13 & Friday, June 14, 2013
Start: Burlington, KY
End: Sevierville, TN
Miles Driven Today: 331
Total Miles: 8,078

We were all set to leave on Thursday. We had a great time with the old “gang” from Kentucky. Tom and I were ready to hit the Bourbon Trail. And then a text from Heather came in late on Wednesday night. “Want to meet us for lunch at Skyline tomorrow?”

Hell yes!!!

So, we decided to do lunch with Heather and her daughter. And if we did that, we wouldn’t get to our destination until pretty late. SO that meant staying another night at Minda’s. Minda, being the gracious hostess that she is, let us camp out for another night. We made the best of it with a great lunch and visit with Heather and a nice pot of Coq au Vin and more Graeter’s ice cream for dinner. We know how to live!

Skyline Chili

Chowing at Skyline Chili

The dogs were really comfy and happy at the Michels’ house. They made themselves very comfortable and were peacefully co-existing with the resident dog, Sparky.

Jasmine and Juliet made themselves comfortable

Jasmine and Juliet made themselves comfortable

Alas, all good things do come to an end. And given that Minda’s daughter is having a horde of teen-age girls over for a sleep-over tonight…hm…just in time! (Just kidding, Grace!!!) So, off we went in search of the Bourbon Trail.

Instead of taking the highway all the way to Frankfort, we decided to get off the Interstate and take some back roads. We went through small towns like Owenton, KY and were able to finally take some snapshots of a few of the barns on the Kentucky Quilt Trail.

Barn quilt on the Kentucky Quilt Trail

Barn quilt on the Kentucky Quilt Trail

Barn quilt on the Kentucky Quilt Trail

Barn quilt on the Kentucky Quilt Trail

We made it to Frankfort in less than two hours and hit our ‘priority’ stop–Buffalo Trace Distillery. Tom had been sipping on Buffalo Trace each time we visited the Michels family…so we had to stop there! We picked up a few choice items…given our wild Bison encounters, we are loving the furry beasts (and Tom is loving the bourbon!). I tasted a bit of the Bourbon Cream and had to have some to take home. YUM!

Tom's new favorite bourbon--Buffalo Trace!

Tom’s new favorite bourbon–Buffalo Trace!

Pre- or post-tasting? You decide.

Pre- or post-tasting? You decide.

MMMM...bourbon! The Bourbon Cream is the BEST!

MMMM…bourbon! The Bourbon Cream is the BEST!

Our next and final stop was Wild Turkey. We picked up a turkey call and a great bourbon barrel coat rack. Alas, at both Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey, we couldn’t take the distillery tours even though our timing was good. The day was way too hot to leave the pups in the car for any length of time. We knew that this could be a problem…but we still enjoyed both distilleries!

Wild Turkey Distillery

Wild Turkey Distillery

Tom riding the Wild Turkey!

Tom riding the Wild Turkey! Pre- or post-tasting? You decide!

Back on the back roads. One of the reasons we stopped at Wild Turkey was to see the S-shaped bridge near the distillery. We couldn’t get a good shot of the bridge, but it was pretty darn cool!

S bridge right past the WIld Turkey Distillery

S bridge right past the WIld Turkey Distillery

We also opted to go through Daniel Boone National Forest instead (again) of the Interstate to really enjoy the scenic byways and hills of Kentucky.

Beautiful road past Daniel Boone National Forest

Beautiful road past Daniel Boone National Forest

That route put us through Cumberland Gap on our way to Tennessee. We picked up salads from Cracker Barrel (yes, SALADS…healthy food!) and had a picnic in the park.

Picnic at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park

Picnic at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. Who says Cracker Barrel can’t do ‘healthy’ food? 🙂

Tunnel through Cumberland Gap

Tunnel through Cumberland Gap

Hello Tennessee! Thanks for the Welcome!

Hello Tennessee! Thanks for the Welcome!

One of today's open roads. Beautiful Tennesse hills.

One of today’s open roads. Beautiful Tennesse hills.

Then it was off to our stop for the night, Sevierville, Tennessee. Sevierville is outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We’re going to visit Gatlinburg, the Smokies and hit the Blue Ridge Parkway tomorrow, so this just sets us up for our next adventure. We’re settled in for the night and are looking forward to tomorrow’s sightseeing. We’ll end up in Asheville, North Carolina tomorrow night. From there, we’ll head up the Blue Ridge Parkway to its Northern End. I’m really looking forward to the Smokies and the Appalachian Mountains!

Kickin’ Around in Jackson, Wyoming

Day 38: Thursday, June 6, 2013

Today, we took a ‘down’ day in Jackson. Yes, Jackson is a touristy town. And yes, we’re tourists. 🙂 Hanging around the Cowboy Village Resort has been a great, relaxing haven from long days of driving (and fun!).

Office at the Cowboy Village Resort

Office at the Cowboy Village Resort

Cowboy Village Office - Carved pillar

Cowboy Village Office – Carved pillar

Back side of the pillar

Back side of the pillar

Back side of the pillar

Back side of the pillar

We slept in and then went over to Bubba’s BBQ for breakfast. Now, you wouldn’t think that a BBQ joint would be your first choice for breakfast. However, the front desk clerk at our resort highly recommended Bubba’s. She was spot-on.

I had the Chicken Fried Steak breakfast. I had been mulling over biscuits and gravy or the chicken fried steak…the waitress said that I could have both if I had a biscuit with my steak. BINGO! Tom ordered the Mexican Breakfast Burrito, and we split some blueberry pancakes. Yes, it was a heavy meal. And yes, we just about finished it all. It was SO good!

Breakfast at Bubba's

Breakfast at Bubba’s – Chicken fried steak, gravy, two eggs, hash browns and a biscuit.

After rolling back to the resort, we decided to take a stroll downtown. We put the girls in the doggie stroller and did some sightseeing and shopping. The galleries here have some interesting stuff, from a $450,000 Triceratops head fossil to your normal t-shirts and souvenir shot glasses. I ended up with a Bison purse and Huckleberry taffy. 🙂

Elk Antler Arch - Jackson Town Square

Elk Antler Arch – Jackson Town Square

Bear? Where?

Bear? Where?

Tom REALLY likes Bison

Tom REALLY likes Bison

We also took the opportunity to get the oil changed on the car and to do laundry. Do we know how to party, or what? In fact, we had so much fun that the dogs were just…dog tired! They are definitely bonding more and more every day.

Tired puppies

Tired puppies

Tomorrow, we head to Fort Collins, CO in preparation to see the Rocky Mountain National Park. Then, we’re going to motor through the Midwest before exploring Kentucky, Tennessee, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachians until heading home.

Home. Yes, we’re moving in that direction. Part of me really misses home. The other part kind of wishes that the adventure could continue on indefinitely. But hey, we still have a few more weeks of rolling.

Up to the Tetons

Day 35: Monday, June 3, 2013
Start: Richfield, UT
End: Jackson, WY
Miles Driven Today: 418
Total Miles: 5,410

Today was a mega travel day. We decided to drive straight through to Jackson, Wyoming so we could spend a full day exploring the Tetons. We originally were going to stop at the Utah/Wyoming border, but I’m glad that we motored through and reached Jackson. The dogs were rarin’ to go!

Let's go!

Packing up the car. Juliet says, “Let’s GO!”

Once again, the scenery was incredible. We have found the Utah landscape absolutely breathtaking, ever-changing and a dream to drive.

Route 89 in Utah

Route 89 in Utah

Blue skies, open road, lovely drive

Blue skies, open road, lovely drive

Breathtaking Utah scenery

Breathtaking Utah scenery

Our journey to Jackson took about 10 hours total, including a few stops. We mainly took backroads, but there was a stretch of I-80 that couldn’t be avoided. Our route took us through Utah, into Wyoming, BACK into Utah, back to Wyoming, a quick flirt into Idaho and then solidly in Wyoming for the rest of the journey. Whew!

Wyoming! Yeeeehawwww!

Wyoming! Yeeeehawwww!

Winding road

Our route took us from Utah to Wyoming, back to Utah, back to Wyoming, Idaho then Wyoming

Wyoming was a mixture of large ranches and pastures surrounded by hills and mountains. The “Home on the Range” song kept playing in my head. And yes, we did see some antelope grazing amongst the cows!

Many ranches, cattle, sheep, goats and a couple of alpacas

Many ranches, cattle, sheep, goats and a couple of alpacas

Today’s travels skirted and went through a host of National Forests. In Utah, we started around the Manti-La Sal National Forest and then drove on the edge of the Uinta National Forest. In Wyoming, we went through the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests. As we approached Jackson, the road followed, crossed and played around the Snake River.

Bridger-Teton National Forest

We went through Bridger-Teton and Targhee National Forests today

Beautiful Bridger National Forest

Beautiful Bridger National Forest

We went through many small towns. Most had populations around 100. Afton, Wyoming was the largest town (aside from Jackson) that we saw along the way. It was a quaint little town with a really awesome sign!

Afton Wyoming

Afton, Wyoming

We really enjoyed the drive, but it was a long day. We were happy to reach our destination in Jackson–the Cowboy Village Resort. Cowboy Village is made up of individual cabins. Each cabin is complete with a kitchenette and sofa. We opted for a one-bedroom suite. The accommodations are really comfy but have the rustic feel of a cabin. But hey, if all cabins had Wifi, a kitchen, nice carpeting, granite countertops…I’d be going ‘rustic’ every day!

More of today's open road

More of today’s open road

Cowboy Village Resort

Cowboy Village Resort

Once again, the girls did great on the long ride. We did stop for dinner in Alpine, Wyoming and fed the girls before we fed ourselves! They are definitely getting more chummy. It’s great to see.

Closer every day

Closer every day

Tomorrow, we explore Grand Teton National Park. I can’t wait!

Zion to Bryce: Glorious Detour

Day 32: Friday, May 31, 2013
Start: Springdale, UT
End: Bryce Canyon City, UT
Miles Driven Today: 187
Total Miles: 4,737

Today was a driving day, moving from Zion to Bryce Canyon. Leaving Zion and going to Bryce was as breathtaking as the trip in. Given that we drove in around 4pm and left around 11am…the landscape was vastly different. The light made the area look so very different; or perhaps we were less in shock as we drove through the incredible vistas. I do think I took more pictures of Zion today than I did yesterday!

Highway 9 Out of Zion

Highway 9 Out of Zion

Majestic views on Highway 9 in Zion

Majestic views on Highway 9 in Zion

Checkerboard Mesa - Zion

Checkerboard Mesa – Zion

Striations on the sandstone in Zion

Striations on the sandstone in Zion

The trip was only about 2 hours long primarily up Highway 89. We needed a few groceries and personal items, so we decided to drive down 89 to Kanab (the largest town around) and pick up the needed items. While it was about a 35-mile detour, we were in no hurry today and the drive was beautiful.

After we left Kanab, we motored up Highway 89. We passed a few small towns that consisted of trading posts and rock shops or a few small houses and businesses. Many of the road-side businesses were shut down…a sign that ‘recovery’ is relative.

Highway 89 skirts the Dixie National Forest, and since we couldn’t check in to our next hotel until late, we decided to detour through the Forest. We took Highway 14 to 148 and then through 143, making a loop through both the Dixie National Forest and the Cedar Breaks National Monument. It was a great detour. We climbed to over 9,000 feet and saw the temperature drop from about 70 degrees to the low 50’s. At the peak, we encountered some serious remaining snow banks! What? We passed Navajo Lake and Panguitch Lake, saw an Elk ranch (with a paddock of Elk).

Cedar Breaks Vista

Cedar Breaks Vista

View from Cedar Breaks Scenic Byway

View from Cedar Breaks Scenic Byway

Panoramic view from Cedar Breaks

Panoramic view from Cedar Breaks

Snow

Snow on the Cedar Breaks Scenic Byway (approx 9000 feet, 52 degrees F)

Today's open road

Today’s open road – Route 48 to Panguitch

As we were on the way down the mountain, we saw what we thought was Bryce; it was, in fact, Red Canyon. We later drove through Red Canyon on our way to Bryce.

Red Canyon

Red Canyon

Red Canyon, Utah Arch

New meaning of drive-through at Red Canyon

Today’s drive was beautiful, memorable and vastly diverse. We went from high desert to dense forest and back to sandstone and rock. It was a great discovery drive and a beautiful day.

Of course, the dogs thought that the best part was attacking Tom after we got to the hotel.

When Dachshunds attack

When Dachshunds attack

Tomorrow, we’ll explore Bryce Canyon. We’re thrilled to see yet another natural wonder. Grand Canyon, Zion and now Bryce. What a trip!!!