Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Almost Heaven: George Washington Slept Here"...(The End)

The week had passed quickly.

Still, we had one full day left to tourist a bit and we had a dinner invitation from one of Mary Jane's nieces.

We started off by heading up the road to Sharpsburg, Maryland.

I'm using the word "road" in the vaguest of terms. Christine's GPS took us on the "shortest route" that, at one point, had us on a one lane road. Lime Kiln Road is so narrow that the term "one lane road" is very generous. To make it even more exciting, it's a steep downhill, rock covered run if one was to stray off the path's western edge.

I was in such a hurry to get off this path, I didn't even stop to take a picture of it.

Nothing says "vacation fun" like imminent death.

Fortunately there was no opposite direction traffic and my plan to hug the east side of the road worked out.

After a three mile run, the GPS bought us out onto the nice wide two lane road it had taken us off of. Pretty soon, we arrived in Sharpsburg.

Sharpsburg is a sleepy little town today, but during the Civil War it was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

The Battle of Antietam. It's called so due to the proximity of Antietam Creek. The one day total of 23,000 casualties is the highest single day total of the Civil War.

That's a staggering number.

The Vietnam War produced around 58,000 American casualties over it's decade plus history.

D-Day produced less than half that number of Allied losses.

It's been said that Antietam Creek ran red with blood.

Somehow, I believe it.

A lonely sentinel watches over his charges.

The layout of the cemetery.

The New Jersey soldiers plot. The smaller stones are those of the Unknowns.

We spent about 45 minutes looking at all the various markers and decided to move on.

Next stop, Charles Town, West Virginia.

We drove south on this nice four lane highway leaving town.

I was in the mood for wide highways.

We no sooner left the city limits of Sharpsburg, MD when we came upon a nice big bridge taking us to West Virginia.

Shepherdstown, West Virginia to be precise.

Home of The Bavarian Inn where we had enjoyed a wonderful meal just two nights before.

It suddenly dawned on us that there was a much safer route we could have taken to Sharpsburg.

Nervous laughter ensued.

We went to Charles Town for two reasons. One, we figured it would be a good stop for lunch.

Reason number two:

Washington slept here.

No, seriously.

In fact, a whole bunch of Washingtons slept here.

George's youngest brother Charles laid out this town back when it was a part of Virginia.

The picture above is that of Charles Washington's home. It is privately owned, so we could only take pictures from the driveway.

I think I like "Happy Retreat" better than Mordington.

Imagine what it must have been like for Charles, though.

Having a famous brother must really blow sometimes.

"Why can't you be more like your brother George?"

George was deified in death. He had the capital of the United States named for him. Mount Vernon is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the D.C. area. The Washington Monument is an American icon.

All Charlie got was buried in the backyard.

Charles Town is a very quaint little town. There are a number of antique stores and cafe's lining the main drag.

The locals are very happy to assist you and answer any questions you may have.

Whatever you do though, do NOT ask them if Charles Town is named for the fat kid in the orange and black shirt shown here.

They take a dim view of that.

However, the Peanuts Gang isn't the only civic art project in the area.

There was one more picture I just had to take.

Back in 1989 I came up here from Richmond, VA on a three day road trip.

We stayed at a place called the "Turf Motel". It was conveniently located right next to the Charles Town racetrack and had a shuttle bus that brought you into a side gate of the track.

Believe me, that was service.

What I remember most though was that they advertised in the most American of ways.

If all else fails, advertise high in the air for all to see:

After all these years, number 7 is still standing tall.

We returned to the cabin. With a family visit on the horizon for Christine and Mary Jane, we figured a bit of rest would be a good idea.

Besides they both wanted to get some things washed and packed away.

We had a nice visit that night with Mary Jane's niece and her family including her great niece and great great nephews.

We left Saturday around noon to head home. There was one more stop I wanted to make before we left.

I'm not sure if it is officially, but I called it, "The World's Shortest Tunnel".

Think there haven't been some verbal altercations here over the years?

Okay, so actually it is a train overpass.

The locals all use a technique to alert each other opposite direction. The drivers roll their window down and blow the vehicle's horn while entering and inside the tunnel.

I found this system worked very well throughout the week.

I employed the "Shave and A Haircut, Two Bits" method.

As you can imagine, I was met with a number of opposite direction drivers awaiting their turn, and rolling their eyes.

Hey, someone always has to be, "That guy".

Last week, it was my turn.

This week, a return to the normal, mundane routine of daily life.

It is nice to be back.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Almost Heaven".....(part 4)

It was really getting hot Tuesday afternoon. We braced ourselves for the next couple of days.

Wednesday morning came and the temperature at 8:00 am was already over 80 degrees.

Neither Christine nor her mother can tolerate extended periods of heat. We all agreed that any touristing/visiting we were going to do would be in the early evening after the heat of the day abated.

We had plenty of food on hand, so there was no need to go into town.

We also had a nice, cool river just down the hill.

Christine and I decided we'd take advantage of it.

We donned our bathing suits, jumped in the AirTrafficMobile, and headed down to "The Bottom".

There was no breeze to be had and the water was flat and shiny like glass. We couldn't have asked for a better day to go canoeing.

We started off heading downriver. It had been years since Christine had been in a canoe, so I figured we'd start by going with the current.

Despite the number of homes along the way, we were the only folks on the river that morning.

Pretty soon we decided we'd best head back the other way. Christine wanted to take a dip and I didn't want to hazard getting back into the canoe from the water.

We spun the canoe about smartly into the current. I told Christine, "Just aim the nose of the canoe at the red metal roof.".

The current wasn't bad at all, the canoeing went well.

We intentionally went past the boat launch so as to allow us to use the current to our advantage coming in. I took this shot to the west as we paddled in.

It was nice to have a bit of shade to beat the day's heat.

Now, while we were out and about on the canoe, Splitty the Maul was hanging out at the gazebo.

Splitty digs the water.

I caught Splitty taking an afternoon nap when we got back.

The picture woke him up.

I was glad it did. Splitty made two new friends.

Splitty posing with his two newest friends Pete the Paddle(L) and Ollie the Oar(R).

Pete and Ollie were telling Splitty how good the cool water felt.

Before I could get his life vest on, Splitty hit the water.

Turns out I didn't have to worry.

Splitty knew how to handle himself in the water.

After a few hours of swimming and hanging out, we decided that an afternoon nap would be nice. We piled back into the AirTrafficMobile and drove up the steep road back to the cabin.

I have to say that nothing beats a really good afternoon nap while on vacation. Before I retired from the FAA, I'd always take a vacation nap and think to myself, "Normally I'd be working right now." just before I closed my eyes.

Try it some time.

The nap was a good call.

Especially since we had made reservations for dinner at The Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, WVa.

Originally this was a private home built in 1930. It was converted to an inn in the 1980's.

Christine and Mary Jane heading to the casual dining room called "The Ratskeller". As the name suggests, it is located in the former cellar.

Looking across the grounds at part of the inn.

Now when I said "casual dining" be assured the only thing casual was the dress code. It was much too hot to get all dolled up just for dinner.

There were a number of entrees from which to choose. Christine opted for a nice grilled salmon dish. Mary Jane ordered a pork tenderloin dish.

Both were quite impressive.

I opened my menu and the first thing that caught my eye was this:

Antelope Tenderloin Wellington with Pureed Celeriac Root and Mushroom Sauce.

It was spectacular.

So were the two bottles of wine from the Bavarian Inn's award winning wine cellar. We had a nice, cool bottle of Gewurztraminer with our appetizers/salads and a really nice Russian River Sauvignon Blanc with dinner. I ordered the Sauvignon Blanc out of deference to the ladies entrees. It stood up well to the antelope.

It's important here to note ATM's Second Law of Diet that states:

"Vacation calories don't count."

I asked our server to bring us dessert menus.

Christine ordered a slice of German Chocolate Cake.

I opted for a slice of this:

Black Forrest Cake and a glass of Port.

It was a splendid end to a splendid evening.

The next morning found us staying in from the heat. It was already 90 degrees by 10:00 am.

Christine and I decided we would take "Billy" with us down to the river. He had already been in the ocean the week before, so we knew he didn't mind the water.

Besides, I wanted to find out if our boy could swim.

Christine took "Billy" out in the river and floated on a noodle.

So far, so good.

After about 15 minutes of placid floating and cooling off, "Billy" got cold an began to shake.

Chris started to bring him in.

Shortly, we would have our answer.

In they came. About ten feet from the boat launch I told Christine to let him loose.

If anything happened, I'd fish him out immediately.

Christine reluctantly released "Billy".....

Well what do you know? Our boy can swim!

Now thoroughly wet, "Billy" did what all wet dogs do after they shake off:

He took a good roll in the grass.

Once again we opted for an afternoon nap. We had to rest our brains in order to be ready for a night at the Charles Town Racetrack.

We stayed for seven of the nine races. Christine won four out of seven races, I won two.

She picked up a few bucks, I lost twenty.

Oh well, that's why they call it gambling.

There were thunderstorms in the area heralding in some cooler air.

That meant we'd be touristing the next day, and preparing to return home Saturday.

More on that tomorrow.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

Nothing wrong with betting a few of the hard earned retirement bucks at the track.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Almost Heaven".........(part 3)

Day three found us driving up the road to Harpers Ferry. It didn't take long to drive there, but parking was a nightmare.

For those not familiar with Harpers Ferry and its historical significance, here's a condensed history lesson:

1) Harpers Ferry, located on the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, was one of two places the Federal government produced and stored rifles for the military. Springfield, Massachusetts was the other.

2) In 1859 an abolitionist named John Brown led an ill fated raid on the armory in an attempt to arm and thereby free slaves.

3) The raid failed, most of Brown's men were killed or captured.

4) John Brown was tried, convicted of treason, and subsequently hung.

5) Had he survived the hanging, he'd have celebrated his 211th birthday this May 9 past.

6) He would have had a heck of a time finding a place to park in Harpers Ferry last Tuesday.

I dropped Mary Jane and Christine off in the main part of the park and parked far around the corner. After my half mile trek I caught up with the ladies. Some of the buildings are used to house exhibits, a couple are souvenir stores, but all have been restored:

I did not know this.

We walked down the main street looking at, and in, a number of restored buildings. We came upon one that had a large exhibit inside. It was a replica of a gun production shop:

Left half of the "gun shop".

Right half of the "gun shop".

Because I like old machinery, I studied this exhibit for a while. As we walked out I turned around and this caught my eye:

The silhouette of the building was interesting, but I had to wonder what effect the former building's chimney had on the remaining building.

St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church high above the National Park.

I found the construction of the old hotel to be pretty interesting. More pictures of that in a minute.

I took my attention off the hotel and looked carefully at this building. It seemed empty, but the sign said, "Open".

I decided I'd take a stroll in to see what was up.

It was very interesting. The National Park Service had preserved the exterior of the building and left the interior open for the public to see.

Some of the old lathe work on the ceiling. Note the brace work to the left. The iron brace and wooden blocks were installed to stabilize the upper floors.

The remnants of one of the original fireplaces.

Foundation work and one of the doors to the street.

A closer view of the foundation work. It seems this building was built on the ruins of another structure.

By this time Mary Jane was getting tired. She took a seat on a wall under a shade tree, Christine and I wandered nearby for a bit.

The remains of one of the two arsenal buildings.

The back of the hotel.

Another view of St. Peter's Catholic Church. I suppose they built it on top of the hill in order to be closer to God.

Looking up the hill back towards town.

The well worn stone steps up to the church. By this time we were all ready to go. It was getting hot and the three of us had all been here before, albeit a long time ago.

Besides, the thought of walking up the hill in the ever increasing heat was not very appealing.

I made a "command decision" to go get the AirTrafficMobile. It likes climbing hills.

Christine made a "command decision" to walk up the stairs to get a closer view of the church.

Mary Jane made a "command decision" to stay on her shady wall, drink her cold water, and await the return of the AirTrafficMobile.

We stopped at a very quaint little cafe' on the way out of town for lunch.

That was enough touristing for one day.

Besides, Mary Jane's nieces and spouses were coming over to the cabin to visit her and Christine. The cabin belonged to their mother, Mary Jane's older sister.

It was a nice visit. The nieces were very happy to see Mary Jane.

I had been monitoring the weather all week long. The daily temperatures were forecast to be in the high 90's/low 100's. We talked it over and decided we'd suspend touristing for the next two days and take advantage of the river.

As it turned out, we decided well.

Tomorrow's blog: "Billy and Splitty the Maul Hit The Drink, Fine German Dining, And A Night At The Races".

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.