Summer Travel Map

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Day Off

June 26, 2010
Broad Brook, CT

Today, I was up early. OK, it was Merlin that got me up at 6:55 AM, but it was a nice, sunny morning so I just made coffee and puttered around a bit. Pat & Al made breakfast sandwiches mid-morning, and then it was time for a nap! Pat & Al are off visiting friends, Alicia & Britt are out somewhere, and we're just relaxing with a little Food Network. Geri's defrosting some sauce and we'll have Pasta Night. Time to find some Chianti!

Friday, June 25, 2010

From the shop to the country club

June 25, 2010
South Hadley, MA

Today was a fun and productive day. Al and I got an early start with the coach maintenance, doing the oil change, 5 filters (2 oil, 2 fuel, 1 air dryer), a lube job and cleaning the radiator stack - and wrapping it all up before 3:00. We cleaned up and relaxed for a bit, had cocktails in the "VIP Lounge" (aka the coach) and then headed off with Mike & Lynne to The Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Mike's a member there and invited us to their Friday Night Roast Beef Buffet. This was a nice treat and everyone left stuffed.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Happy Birthday for Pat!

June 24, 2010
Broad Brook, CT

Whew! After a busy and fun-filled week, we were happy to find a few days to relax and recharge. Monday and Tuesday were quiet as Mike & Susan headed back to Illinois early in the morning and everyone else was back to the work week. Since we have enough "cookout" food to last the rest of the summer, we did up some hot dogs on the grill on Monday, with chili and diced onions this time (Geri's Famous Sauerkraut being all gone). Tuesday night, Al treated us to dinner at the Pond House Restaurant in Hartford's Elizabeth Park, a nice BYOB experience. Most of us had their "Tasting Tuesday" special (Watermelon Salad, Asian Brisket, Margarita Pie); the Calamari and Sweet Potato Fries appetizers were good as well.

Wednesday I did some shopping for RV maintenance items. Al has graciously volunteered to help with the routine "preventative maintenance" activities on Friday (gotta love the 4-day work week). I picked up the needed nine gallons of oil and a desiccant cartridge for the air dryer system; I have all the other filters "in stock" in the spare parts bay. In the meantime, Geri, Melisa and Jesse all went to the new Connecticut Science Center, a very hands-on type of museum in downtown Hartford. For dinner, Geri did a great job with Pork Medallions and Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Grilled Asparagus. Mmmm. After dinner, we played a round of Push-Pull Rummy, which Pat still thinks she won.

Today was Pat's birthday, so there were gifts, flowers, and cake. While we were deciding what to do about dinner, Geri made a great Guacamole recipe that she'd gotten from our friend, Eva, when we visited them in California earlier this year. This, of course, called for Margaritas (or, as they're locally known, "George-a-ritas"). Tired of waiting for a decision on dinner, Geri heated up some pulled pork we'd brought from Alabama, and we had that on the deck (not letting a passing shower dampen us, even if we didn't find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow) until the bugs drove us inside. Mike & Lynne stopped by and we visited until most everyone was tired. Al and I started watching the Red Sox game, but by 10:45 I was ready to call it a night. Good thing, since the game ended up going 11 innings!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Over to Melisa & Paul's

June 20, 2010
Tolland, CT

Since Mike & Susan had brought their motorcycle (trailers from Illinois), Al organized a bike ride for today. They left in the morning, picked up Paul at Pete's house in Marlborough, then headed for the Connecticut Shore, catching up with Al's friend, John. I gave them a few texts so they could dodge the isolated showers, and they made it back via Hartford without getting wet. After loading Mike's bike back on the trailer, we all headed over to Melisa & Paul's place in Tolland for another nice dinner and some relaxation. Al, Paul, and I watched the sun set over the pastures from chairs in the front yard. Pat & Al and Mike & Susan called it an early night since work and the return trip to Illinois, respectively, was waiting for them in the morning. Geri & I hung out past our bedtime, getting home close to midnight, but it was good to catch up with Melisa & Paul and see the great job he did in remodeling the kitchen at their place.

Click here for more pictures...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Another family visit - from Boston

June 19, 2010
Broad Brook, CT

Geri's niece, Cindy, recently relocated from Santa Barbara to Boston (yes, everyone tells them they're going in the wrong direction but her husband, Mike got a good job offer so off you go), so they came down with their daughter, Jennifer, for the day. We had another full house, with Geri's sons Peter (with Josh & Belle) and Chris (with Christine and Lindsay, and their dog "Pepper") stopping by in addition to all the family members from Friday. We had a great visit, did some burgers and hot dogs on the grill, and generally enjoyed a beautiful, sunny (for a change) day.

Click here for more pictures...

As with many of our get-togethers, this one had two shifts. In the evening, Mike & Lynne stopped by, mike carrying 6 pounds of steamers and two dozen oysters. Their daughter, Alyson, brought them back fresh from Rhode Island earlier in the day. Note to self: get seafood from Rhode Island over Costco every time. Al did up the clams on the grill and I broke out the oyster knife (always have the right tool for the job). Were those oysters ever good! Fresh and clean, with just a hint of the ocean, they didn't need any "doctoring up", although some people still used the hot or cocktail sauce. Mmmm.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mike and Susan arrive from Illinois

June 18, 2010
Broad Brook, CT

Catching up from where we left off: yes, it did rain on Wednesday, but not as much, as hard, or as long as expected. So much for forecasts. We chopped up the last of the mushrooms we brought from Pennsylvania and Pat made a nice hearty Mushroom Soup for dinner, which was excellent.

Thursday was a slow day, as Geri and I weren't moving too quickly in the morning. We did some shopping in the afternoon, and Geri, Pat and Melisa all went off to some sort of "jewelry party" in the evening. Kinda like the old "Tupperware parties", just different "stuff", I suppose. Al mowed the lawn and I put together some meatball grinders, finishing up the ones Geri made and froze before we left AZ. With an OK sauce and some decent provolone, one-and-a-half each and we were stuffed. We headed around the corner to the German Club for a brew and called it an early night.

Today was a quiet day for the most part. Al and I made a Costco run to pick up littleneck clams and mussels for dinner, and Geri's oldest son, Mike, and his wife, Susan arrived late in the afternoon. They live in southwestern Illinois and have been doing their own "family tour", visiting South Carolina and Virginia before getting here.

It's become a tradition to have seafood when Mike visits, since his options are limited where he lives. We possibly overdid things, though, with 15 pounds of clams and about 18 pounds of mussels. Al and I fired up our outdoor stove and we cooked (except for the clams that were confiscated to be served raw) and dined al fresco. Pat also made some beef tips that went over well. Melisa, Paul & Jesse came over, Geri's son, Paul, was there, and Mike & Lynne stopped by, and Al's friends John & Ted made an appearance so we had a full deck. And a good time...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Waiting for the rain to return

June 16, 2010
Broad Brook, CT

After on-and-off showers for the better part of the last week, things finally cleared up a bit and yesterday was quite nice. Of course, that means that we're due to get more rain today! I just checked the weather radar and it looks like it'll start raining within the next hour. That's no problem since I'd planned today as a "catch up" day. Catch up on the blog and photos. Catch up on bills. Dust off the to-do list. Good stuff for a rainy day. The next few days are supposed to be nice, and we have a few more family events planned for the weekend, so things will be hopping. We're looking forward to it!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More great dinners

June 15, 2010
Broad Brook, CT

Well, we're certainly eating well here in CT. Yesterday, Al grilled us lamb chops with his "Famous" Mushroom-Port sauce. The loin chops were quickly seared on a hot grill, and the sauce, made with an oyster-shiitake-maitake mix and some 20-year Tawny Port, was a great addition. Geri made a large batch of "Grandma Reds" (pan-roasted potatoes, fingerlings this time) and a zucchini hit the grill as well. With a Louis Martini Sonoma Cabernet from Al's cellar, it was a fine meal. Geri had planned to make peach-brie quesadillas for dessert but ran out of time, so Pat quickly turned it into a peach-strawberry pie that was excellent.

Tonight, we had a couple of special treats. First, Geri made her "Famous" Chicken & Brie with Bowtie Pasta (a recipe from Barbara & Jim). Second, Mike & Lynne came over with the first bottle of their homemade wine, the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Third, they brought along their friend, Beth, and her little Yorkie, Petey. Merlin and Maya Lynn enjoyed the doggie company and we had another great dinner.

"Yep, just like I expected it to taste!"

Beth finds that the way to Merlin's heart is with Blueberry Pie!

We're not getting a lot done during the day, but we're certainly enjoying the evenings!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Catching up with the more family members

June 14, 2010
New Britain, CT

Today, we caught up with family members that we haven't seen in quite a while. Last week, I got an email from my cousin, Ric, letting me know that there was a Connecticut trip planned on their end, soo we made arrangements to get together for lunch. Ric and his wife, Susan, and mother, Doris, were all in CT for a wedding and had some free time, so we met at the restaurant at the Stanley Golf Course, which was about equidistant. They had lived in Cheshire, CT, for years before relocating to Georgia several years ago. We saw them at their daughter, Kate's, wedding two years ago, but didn't really have time to visit so this was a great opportunity. We talked for several hours, well past the end of lunch, and we'll try to get over to their place just northeast of Atlanta the next time we're in the Southeast.

 Ric, Susan, Geri, George, and Doris

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Satisfying a Lobster Jones

June 13, 2010
Broad Brook, CT

Geri's been wanting a lobster dinner since February. OK, that's because I promised her one for her birthday. But, I was painting the house and time just got away from me. So, with lobsters going for $4.99 per pound (as opposed to the $13.99 ones in AZ), Geri and Pat did a seafood feast today. Steamed clams, steamed lobster, corn on the cob - great to be in New England!

"Lefty", "Larry", "Louie"...

 Whiner says "save some for me"!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Hey, it's a birthday party!"

June 12, 2010
Marlborough, CT

Today was a relaxing day. We puttered around a bit, then headed to Marlborough for a birthday party for Geri's grandson, Josh. We visited with Geri's son, Pete, (Josh's Dad) and his friend, Val. Josh's sister, Belle, and her friend, Danielle, Geri's son, Paul, daughter, Melisa, and grandson Jesse were all there. Pete did burgers and dogs on the grill and Val made enough baked macaroni to feed an army, so we were almost full by the time the cake arrived.

We all wished Josh a "Happy Birthday", and Pete surprised him with tickets for the Yankee game the next day. Good job!

Danielle, Belle, and Josh

Melisa, Al, Pat, and Geri

Val and Pete

Friday, June 11, 2010

Through The City and on to Connecticut via multiple states

June 11, 2010
Broad Brook, CT

Today was a very good travel day. We bid PA farewell and headed for CT.

We were up early and greeted with a partly sunny morning. Coffee in hand, I finished the travel preparation, which was basically just pulling in the power cord and hooking up to Rover. We left right around 8:00 AM as planned, and made our way cross-country (there are no direct routes) south. We tried a new route and it worked out pretty well, heading west from the RV park, then south to PA-41. We soon crossed into Delaware where a quick maneuver put us on DE-141 right down to I-295. We were soon across the Delaware Memorial Bridge into New Jersey, and ducked into the Flying J for fuel - both the coach and the people (this time, I remembered that we were going to have breakfast at our first stop).

We then made the quick hop over to the New Jersey Turnpike (aka "The Turnpike"), zipped through the EZ-Pass express lanes and headed north. As we usually do, we check New York City (aka "The City") traffic around New Brunswick. After hearing that there was a negligible delay on the local approaches to the George Washington Bridge (aka "The George" - OK, you get the idea: we can sometimes be New York-centric), we decided to go for it, saving 40-75 miles in the process. We had our alternate routes identified from past travel, so we knew we'd have options if things changed.

As it turns out, we really didn't have any issues. We followed the Turnpike all the way past the Meadowlands sports complex to the end, used the local lanes, cut over to the upper deck lanes (no trucks/propane on the lower level of The George and saw an empty HOV lane marked "6-9 AM and "3-6 PM". It being 11:00 AM, that looked like the right lane for us, and we drove right up to an EZ-Pass only lane and were through in a matter of seconds.

From the tolls, it's only a few hundred feet to the bridge, then quickly across the upper tip of Manhattan into the Bronx. OK, "quickly" is relative since we had a bit of stop-and-go traffic for a few miles. Other than a few slow spots along I-95 in Connecticut (the inevitable construction zones), we had a good ride up to New Haven then north on I-91, sneaking through Hartford just before the afternoon rush and arriving at Pat & Al's place in East Windsor right around 4:00 PM. Other than a run-in with an angry wasp while plugging in, we were quickly settled and enjoying a beer (the Lone Star that we brought Al from Texas) on the porch. All in all a good day.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A whirlwind week in PA/NJ

June 10, 2010
Embreeville, PA

Whew! We've been running all week. OK, not literally, but we've been busy nonetheless and have had a good time as well.

Sunday, we visited our friends Wayne and Doris in Chadds Ford. Their garden, "Wyneden" (,, is a popular spot for horticultural tours, and Wayne's done an amazing job in both design and execution. We spent some time touring the garden before a nice dinner, and ended up talking well into the evening. Merlin and Maya Lynn enjoyed the visit with Nico, their champion standard poodle, as well!

On Monday, we caught up with friends from the working days, Bob & Sarah and Dave & Sandy. After wine and hors d'oeuvres at Bob & Sarah's, we headed to a local Italian place and had another nice meal. It was great to see everyone, and we all agreed that we should try to get together more than once every two years!

Tuesday took us to New Jersey, this time to visit friends, Shelley & Felice, who were neighbors when we lived in Berlin. They have a nice house in a quiet neighborhood (keeping the rampant development at bay) and it was fun to see all the home improvement projects they've completed. Their Dalmatian mix, Oliver ("Ollie") is just a few months older than Merlin, and they've been "buds" since they were puppies. Ollie's been suffering with some health issues, and we hope his treatments are productive.  Yes, Ollie has his own chair at the table and, yes, he likes chocolate cake...

Wednesday dawned cloudy and rainy, and we ended up in New Jersey again, this time for shopping. Costco, Wegman's, and Canal's Wine Shop were all on the itinerary, and we got most everything we needed (and probably some things that weren't "on the list"). We took the pups with us since it wouldn't be too hot (especially not with temperatures in the low-60s), and they had a good day not being cooped up in the coach.

Today was our last day in the area, and we decided to hit a few local stops. Since we're right near Kennett Square, "the Mushroom Capital of the World" (says so right on the water tower!) and I always enjoy being a "fun guy", we walked around the historic district and picked up a couple of pounds of fresh mushrooms (mixed oyster, shiitake and maitake - yum). Our next stop was at Va La Winery (, in the little town of Avondale. I did some research and found this place online and was intrigued by the irreverent wit, so it was a natural place to stop. The notice in the "loo" is a good example of their sense of humor. We did a tasting and bought a couple of bottles (surprised?).

They serve each wine with a local cheese, and the tasting room manager suggested a side trip to a cheese shop. Since we had a little extra time and it was a nice day, we took the half-hour cruise up to Gap, PA, and found the place right under the clock tower. What a great find! We tasted every cheese we wanted and ended up buying six different ones. Can you say "cheese plate"? Oh, yeah.

Tonight, we used some of the mushrooms, with shrimp in a cream sauce over linguini. We're doing our normal "night before travel" stuff, so we should be able to hit the road around 8:00 tomorrow. This gives us a chance of getting through The City before the afternoon rush. Wish us luck!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Back in the Philly Area

June 5, 2010
Embreeville, PA

We had a very nice drive yesterday, leaving Virginia around 9:00 AM and heading across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel ($35 toll!!!) and up US-13/US-113. In Delaware, we passed Milford (Maya's hometown) and crossed into Pennsylvania and on to our destination, the "West Chester-Philadelphia KOA". We've been here before and it's really the only option for a park in the Philly 'burbs. Of course, we always say "If we knew how far off the beaten path we'd be, we'd never have come here". We've been here 3 times before, so I guess it's OK.

We arrived here around 3:30 PM and have been relaxing and catching up ever since. Geri's caught up on laundry and I've paid the bills. Tonight was Netflix night: Julie & Julia.Easy living. Over the next three days, we'll catch up with various folks we know in the local area, do some shopping (Moore Brothers, Canals, Wegmans, woo-hoo), and chill a bit before we move on to Connecticut late next week. Details to follow...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A quick stop and a quick visit

June 3, 2010
Virginia Beach, VA

Well, here we are in one of my old "stompin' grounds", Hampton Roads, Virginia. Back in the working days, we had a big contact center in Chesapeake and I spent a reasonable amount of time here. So, why are we here this time? Another family visit, of course. This time, it's Geri's great-nephew, Mike, who's attending another class. We met up with him last January in Florida, and found out a few days ago that he's taking a class in Hampton/Norfolk.

Since we are heading to the Philadelphia area, I'd planned to use I-95 from South Carolina, but I wasn't looking forward to I-495 around Washington and I-695 around Baltimore. Being able to see Mike meant breaking away from I-95 just over the Virginia border. We headed east on US-58, connecting with I-664/I-64/I-264 into Virginia Beach. The good news: we'll head north on US-13 across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, on up through the Eastern Shore, Maryland, Delaware, and on into the Philly area - and bypass the whole DC-Baltimore thing.

We're staying at a park right next to Oceano Naval Air Station. Fighter jet training runs from 8:00 AM to Midnight. Ah, the "sound of freedom". They even have bumper stickers that say "I Love Jet Noise". Lemons and lemonade, yada-yada-yada.

Mike and his class partner, Dan, headed our way and we met for dinner at Smokey Bones in Virginia Beach. I had a rib combo (good but a tad overcooked) and Geri had Fish & Chips (excellent). Mmmm...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Another Family Visit

June 2, 2010
Lexington, SC

We left Alabama yesterday morning, heading for Columbia, SC. We followed US-431 south to I-20 east, and followed the Interstate all the way to our destination. As usual, we passed some interesting signage along the way...

Ummm, I'll take the Plate of Ribs, thanks...

Our destination (actually in Lexington, just west of Columbia) was a bit of a crap-shoot. "The Barnyard RV Park". Barnyard? Hmmm. Actually, the "barnyard" is really a flea market. Double Hmmm. As it turns out, the fleas were away (closed) and the park was quite nice. Away from the road, it was relatively quiet (only a few evening trains rumbled past), spacious (100' pull-thrus about 45' wide), and just what we needed for a couple of nights.

So, why are we here? One of Geri's great-nephews, Ron, lives here with his family (Angela and Sebastian). We haven't seen him for almost 20 years, as he joined the Army at an early age and was gone every time we visited the family in California. He's now an officer, been deployed twice, and is currently stationed at Fort Jackson. They'll be moving to San Antonio soon.

Angela and Sebastian came over to the coach in the afternoon and we visited for a while (including some love from Merlin, who was uncommonly good) before Ron joined us. Afterward, we headed out through the raindrops to Outback for dinner. It was another great visit, seeing Ron again and meeting Angela and Sebastian for the first time. Back home, we did our normal preparations for travel.