Back to Virginia

October 7 – 12, 2019

Fortunately fleeing DC was a lot easier than getting in.  We’re back to Shenandoah River State Park for our two day stay – again.  We didn’t get our favorite spot, but we got our new favorite that zips you right onto the trail from the back of the site.  Just perfect for Jackson walks.

Shenandoah River State Park – The Encore


Peaceful morning on the Shenandoah River,


With a touch of Fall,


And of course “the littles”.  Doesn’t this fungus look like a heart valve or something?

Skyline Drive

The weather was gloomy, but we wanted to take another trip on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.  I like a grumpy sky and figured the photos would be pretty in a different way.


It was the perfect day to capture exactly what I love best about the area.  The endless blue mountain layers with the haze.


The moody sky is just about as good as a bright one full of sunshine.

More of the drive through Shenandoah National Park.


The last overlook.


The mist is catching up with us, so it’s time to call it a day.


Claytor Lake State Park

We happened upon Claytor Lake State Park during our travels three years ago.  We only stayed two nights, but it made the list of places we wanted to see again.  We’re happy to be back, and friends Jackie and Basil joined us here for a few days, too, since they live close by in North Carolina.  We first met them in South Dakota last year and have kept up ever since.


Fun to have visitors.  They fixed a delicious low country boil at their place and we taught them to play Exploding Kittens, our new favorite game.

We enjoyed a misty morning by the lake, with sound dulled by the fog,


Spider web jewels at the gazebo,


And the resident deer herd that didn’t care for us walking along with Jackson.  I captured them just before they leaped off into the woods.

Other than fun with our friends and quiet walks through the woods, we didn’t do much here.  A relaxing stop and just what we needed to finish off our stay in Virginia.

Next Up: The Blue Ridge Parkway.  See you on the way!


Washington, D.C. – Part 2

September 28 – October 6, 2019

Pat’s mom and sister Dee flew in from Springfield, Missouri to join us and visit DC for the first time.  I love seeing the marvels here again with newbies.

Visiting the Family Scientist

The first big outing was touring Ethan’s virology lab.  Well not “his” exactly, but he plays an important role.  Only two more years or so until he’s Dr. Iverson.


He patiently explained his influenza research and let us peer at the cell cultures through the microscope.  This is my favorite part where you look at the waving cilia on the epithelial cells.  You have them to thank when you get rid of the yucky mucus in your lungs.


We also strolled a bit on the University of Maryland campus and found this statue of Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog outside the student union.  Mr. Henson was a graduate of UMD and Kermit is a particular favorite of Dee.


After our gift shop expedition, we had the visitors pose with Testudo, the UMD mascot and resident terrapin.  Fear the turtle!

Monumental Experience

After the campus visit, we headed to the Metro.  I couldn’t wait for Mom and Dee to get their first look at all the famous monuments.



I think they’re having a good time!


This is my favorite shot of the day.  Just the sort of thing I would do.

The Smithsonian

Pat sat this one out since he managed to roll his ankle in ND and needed to get the swelling down so he wouldn’t miss our other scheduled tours.


Lunch was at the Smithsonian Castle and then a tour of the Museum of Natural History led by a guy who’s passion is fossils.  The place is overwhelming and we honestly just scratched the surface after hours in the place.  I think our favorite part was the gem and mineral display.  Everyone has to crowd around the Hope Diamond, and then you look at all the other gorgeous stones.  It was a perfect way to dodge the rain and still get back in time for a picnic dinner at our “house”.

The Night Tour

I insisted we all take a night tour since I remembered it fondly from years ago.  Not everything was easy to see at night, but some things are even better lit up.

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First stop was the Capitol where the top of the dome is adorned with a 19 and a half foot tall Statue of Freedom.  According to our guide, no other statues in Washington can be taller since nothing is more important than freedom.  We liked that.  Mom gets a good shot.


The Washington Monument looms large from just about everywhere at night.  And that’s what you get when you hand your camera over to a helpful stranger.  Judy the unicorn, although I prefer narwhal.


And my favorite monument, day or night.

We all thought it was an excellent tour and we learned quite a few things.  Our stops that night also included the White House, FDR Memorial, MLK Memorial, Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall, Korean War Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and WWII Memorial.  This ended at 11pm.

The White House

I laughed when I got the final word from our Florida congressman’s office that our White House tour had been approved.  Hurray!  But wait, it’s for 7:30 am on the morning after the night tour that ends at 11pm.  And just how to you get to downtown DC that early in the morning during the peak rush hour?  Well, the DC Metro system has a trip planner and I discovered with a few bucks on our cards and a 6 am departure, we could do it.  So bleery-eyed and without the forbidden items such as purses and pointy objects, we made our way to the big city.


Just to prove they were there…


A few of the famous rooms.


The view that FDR had cleared so he could watch construction of the Jefferson Memorial.


My favorite from the White House ballroom.  Isn’t Mom cute?


Our parting shot.


Since we couldn’t or wouldn’t stand in line at 6:30 am to get tickets to go to the top of the Washington Monument for the city view, we did the next best thing recommended by our night tour guide.  We trekked to the Old Post Office Tower which is at the top of the Trump Hotel.  We enjoyed the 360 degree view and particularly the rooftop gardens on the buildings next door.

National Zoo

After the Old Post Office, we hopped on the Metro again to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.  Of course it was so very hot out and most of the animals weren’t interested in being seen.


We were entertained by the giant panda who climbed a tree and the others who munched on snacks outside while the keepers tidied up inside.


Most beautiful goes to the Red Panda, but he did a quick about face when he saw us.  I wasn’t quick enough get a shot of the whole animal before he disappeared through the door.


The clouded leopard cubs were so cute and one was stuck on top of the light mounted inside the enclosure.  A typical cat.  Can climb up, but can’t get back down.  Finally we headed back home for a nap and then dinner at the local diner playing songs on the tiny jukebox at our table.  Whew!  Quite a day.

On the next day and last one in town for Mom and Dee, DC set a heat record for that date in October (98 degrees at the airport).  We opted for the nice air conditioned mall and a little shopping, followed by a farewell dinner with Ethan & Stephanie.  We jetted Mom and Dee back to the Baltimore airport in the wee hours of the next morning and bid them farewell after a grand time in the city.

A Day with Ethan


On our last day in town, Ethan came over to our house for the day.  We taught him to play Exploding Kittens, the card game I bought in the UMD student union, and he’s beating the pants off of us.  We learned some diabolical strategy from him.


Ethan got to spend some quality time with his dog and we showed him the sights in the RV park.  He now knows the difference between class A, B and C motorhomes, fifth wheels and pull behind trailers.  He also realizes now that we aren’t nearly as big as he thought next to the 40-footers in the park.  Compared to some of those rigs, we’re downright tiny.


A mom and her boy.



After one last dinner and more card playing, we finally give Ethan and Stephanie some peace and quiet.  Photo credit to Stephanie for the family shot.  It’s been a great extended visit and so glad we could do so many things with them.

We’re now ready to leave the metropolitan area and the crazy Maryland drivers.  I agree with Ethan’s assessment.  They are crazy behind the wheel with the key word being unpredictable.  They’re just as likely to turn left from four lanes over on the right as they are to stop dead in a busy road to let out passengers.  That we won’t miss.  Finally it’s time to flee the sound and fury of the big city and trade it for the peace and quiet of the Shenandoah River Valley.

Next Up:  Back to Virginia.  See you on the way!


Washington, D.C. – Part 1

September 19 – 27, 2019

For this extended stop, we’re staying at Cherry Hill Park just off the beltway in College Park, Maryland.  It’s oh so convenient to Ethan’s apartment and the University of Maryland campus.  Convenient and the the only game in town for touring D.C., but getting in there is nerve-wracking.  The stress level was high with road construction, sharing the road with texting drivers and dodging the Lebanese butcher who tried to run us out of our lane.  You know it’s dicey when you opt to drive next to the concrete barrier about six inches off your bumper because at least it doesn’t swerve.  Thankfully we made it without incident.

Catching Up With “The Kids”

I still refer to Ethan and his girlfriend Stephanie as “the kids” even though they are truly adults.  They’ll always be your babies.  Anyway, we kicked off our almost three week visit with a Mexican dinner out.  We’ve had a rough time of late finding good Mexican, so we thoroughly enjoyed the kids’ favorite in the area, Taqueria Habanero.  We took Jackson over to their apartment so he could reconnect, too, but their kitties were not impressed.  Charlie has apparently forgotten all about her long lost dog.


We spent our first blistering hot Saturday at Six Flags for Steph’s company picnic.  We watched her ride all the big coasters and dutifully held her purse and glasses for her.  Ethan could only be coaxed into this kiddie ride.  Now she knows where the chicken genes come from.


I also got to join Ethan & Steph in a visit to Mike and Elizabeth’s place about an hour away in Northern Virginia.  Mike is Ethan’s best friend from DeLand and he and Elizabeth are recently engaged.  We can’t wait for the big event.  And then there’s Murphy.  Seems we’re not the only parents who pawned off a cat…

Pat’s Getaway

We have a deal with each other that we’ll take two weeks away each year to do stuff on our own.  Sometime it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.  Pat took a week of his “vacation” to go to Grand Forks, ND to visit a high school buddy.  While he and Greg got caught up, Jackson and I endured the heat together and I made a few outings of my own.

National Gallery of Art

I love a good art gallery and there are some rare masters at the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art that I wanted to revisit.  I ended up back at the West Gallery since that has all the impressionist works which are my faves.


I took a spin through the gallery’s statue garden before heading in to see the paintings.  From the garden, I was thrilled to see that the Capitol got its braces off.  The last time we were here it was covered in scaffolding for repairs.


This gleaming silver tree caught my eye and was my favorite on the grounds.


There’s a special exhibit going on now featuring Andrea del Verrocchio, a sculptor turned painter who was the teacher for Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci.  This cherub was the sweetest little statue and one of Verrocchio’s signature pieces.


His work cannot be captured in photos of course.  Standing inches away from this Madonna and Child painting was breathtaking.  I wanted to reach out and touch those rosy cheeks.


The gallery also has a program where artists can copy great works of art.


Vincent van Gogh has a great style, too.  Lots of texture – ‘Green Wheat Fields, Auvers’


My new favorite is American artist Thomas Cole.  These shots are from his work ‘The Voyage of Life: Childhood’.


Here’s another one of his works, ‘The Return’.  Those stained glass windows positively glow.


‘View From Vaekero near Christiana’ by Norwegian artist Johan Christian Dahl.


And finally ‘Moonlit Landscape with Bridge’, by Dutch artist Aert van der Neer.  Seems I’m partial to Dutch artists, and I really enjoyed losing myself for a few hours in the gallery.

Washington National Cathedral


During our family vacation to DC years ago, we visited the National Cathedral.  It’s off the beaten path by a good bit, so we hadn’t made it back on subsequent visits.  So off the path, in fact, that it took me about 50 minutes by Metro with an additional 1.2 mile trek to finally arrive.  Worth the effort since it’s the 6th largest Cathedral in the world and took 83 years to build.  It has 112 gargoyles, 215 stained glass windows and 10,650 pipes in the organ.  Massive, just massive.

Gothic arches and lots of light.


Spectacular stained glass


I was reading a book about building a Gothic cathedral, so it was interesting to see this finished spectacle again.


I happened to visit when the Armed Forces chaplains were there and shared the chapel solitude with some of them.

Scenes from the chapels in the crypt level.


And a view of the city from the observation deck.


Those famous flying buttresses.  In my novel I was reading, they were just coming into use by builders in the 1400s.


Although the Capitol no longer has scaffolding, the cathedral still does.  It was damaged by the 2011 earthquake that rocked Washington, D. C.  Several stones actually fell and they are in the process of repairing the damage.


Time to retrace my steps back to the Metro and home to Jackson.  It was a grand out-of-the-way day.

Next Up:  More DC touring with family visitors.  See you on the way!



Shenandoah River

September 17 – 18, 2019

The destination is one of our favorites, Shenandoah River State Park.  This is our third visit, but seems we only manage to stay for two days at a time.  We’ll have to fix that during our next travel season.

O Shenandoah



I have a folk song looping through my brain every time we visit.  “O Shenandoah, I long to see you, Away you rolling river…”  Beautiful song, but it doesn’t refer to the Shenandoah River.  Still, I sing it anyway when we’re here.  On our first morning, we managed to get Jackson to walk the trail to this spot, Culler’s Overlook.  And there it is, the rolling Shenandoah River with the clouds gliding through the valley.


It’s an uphill trail, so we only coax Jackson to walk this one once.


And the “littles”.

Lunch at the Cattle Company

Kevin, one of my Abbott friends, lives nearby in Winchester and he graciously invited us over for lunch.  I’ve known him for almost 30 years and we go all the way back to the time Pat and I were first married.  Pat was still in the Navy and I took the job with Abbott in Texas.  The joke at work was that I moved away while Pat was somewhere under the ocean.  Technically he was in the ship yard.


We had a delicious lunch and a bonus tour of his cattle company.  Nothing like a close encounter with a slick cow nose.

Icicle, Dandy, and Annabelle, to name a few, came up to check us out and eat the cookie snacks we offered.

The rest of our short stay was taken up with a provisioning stop at Wal-mart in Front Royal and preparing ourselves mentally for the drive on the DC Beltway to see Ethan.  This spot is perfect.  About 90 miles away so we can time the madness into the city.


Jackson waits patiently while we pack up to leave.  His ramp comes in quite handy.

And that’s it for Shenandoah this time around.

Next up:  College Park, Maryland for almost three weeks to see Ethan.  See you on the way!


September 14 – 16, 2019

Pat picked this spot so we could tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.  He read about the incredible building feat and we thought it would be an excellent tour opportunity.



Ohiopyle Falls in the cute  town of Ohiopyle, PA.

We’re back in Pennsylvania for the last time this year, staying at Ohiopyle State Park.  I read that you shouldn’t take the main road in due to the steep and winding couple of miles.  Big rigs are cautioned to take the “back” way.  I always heed those warnings and after driving the other road in Bitsy, we’re glad we did.  We could have lumbered up, but going down would have been scary.

Ohiopyle gets it name from a Native American word meaning “white, frothy water”.  Seems appropriate.  It’s not Niagara, but cascade waterfalls are a favorite of mine.  The waterfalls in the area are all on the Youghiogheny River or the “Yaw” for short.


We took a short hike from a pullout to see this waterfall and the river rapids.  See that kayaker in the distance?  Good thing they had a helmet since they definitely rolled over in the rapids.

The Main Event

We read that advanced tickets were a must to prevent “disappointment”.  I marked it on my calendar months ago so I wouldn’t forget to buy ours.  In the end, only three other people were on our tour so it was perfect and personalized.


I’ll skip to the money shot first.  You can’t take photos during the tour inside the home, but you can stroll to the prime viewing spot and take all the pictures you want.  This is the view you see on all the advertising for the place.


Fallingwater was built over the top of the Bear Run waterfall and creek.  Steps in the home lead right down to the flowing water.  The balconies jut out with seemingly no support.  Our tour guide explained that they are cantilevered, or beams supported only on one end.  In this case, that support is the vertical part of the house.  FLW incorporated the same design in the built-in furniture giving it that floating appearance.

Of course Frank also designed free-standing furniture pieces for his clients.  He had the audacity to move the pieces back to his designated locations if the home owners had the cheek to move them someplace else.  He met his match in the Fallingwater owners who relegated his dining room chair to a back bedroom.


It does appear to be an engineering marvel, but we discovered while reading signs in the cafe that although Frank Lloyd Wright was ahead of his time with this design, it wasn’t perfect.  The home has been repaired extensively over the years to prevent the collapse of the terraces due to errors in building calculations.  Still, a marvel and beautiful weekend home to the Kaufmann’s, department store moguls escaping the dirty city of Pittsburgh during the industrial 1930s.  The home was completed in 1937, yet seems so modern.


Some “littles” from our stroll around the property.


And one more of the long view.  A little later in the season and we would have caught the Fall colors.  That’s it for our visit to the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania.

Next Up:  Shenandoah River State Park – a favorite campground.  See you on the way!