On the Road With Doris & Ez

We're going on a road trip!!!! Could be three weeks could be three years, we'll see. Read below to see where we are now.....

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Traveling West (and a Bump in the Road) - September 2007

When last we met our heroes, they were about to head out for a (somewhat) leisurely trip back to the west and home base. Unfortunately, the bad luck troll reared his ugly head in the form of a nasty back injury. As we were getting ready to leave, Ez pulled his back lifting a bucket of water leaving him in no shape to do anything but lay on his back in agony. Anyone who’s had a back injury knows what the first days after the trauma are like – sheer hell! We made a trip to the emergency room and visited two MDs – a family practice physician and an orthopedist. The meds helped some, but time is the real healer for these injuries. And of course, since Ez couldn’t sit comfortably (and I can’t drive our 42-foot coach) we were stuck in Madison, Virginia. Thanks to the nice folks at Shenandoah Valley Campground who pulled strings and rearranged reservations so we could stay in our site!

After six days, Ez had made some improvement. He couldn’t walk or stand without pain, but he could sit – and that’s all we needed for him to drive! We set out to try and make up some of our lost time. As I’ve said before, we’re lazy travelers. We like to travel about 150-200 miles at a time and then stay put for up to a week. On our new schedule we would travel up to 400 miles a day, staying only overnight at each stop. Usually we didn’t even both to unhook our tow vehicle – too much pain and trouble since we weren’t doing any sightseeing on such a short stay.

We did make a couple of exceptions however. During our two-night stay in Memphis, I headed for the quintessential Memphis tourist trap – Graceland! (That's where most of these pictures were taken.) Ez had to pass because he couldn’t stand or walk long enough to make the pilgrimage to the Mecca of Rock and Roll. I’m not a rabid Elvis fan, but touring this monument to 60s and 70s kitsch is not to be missed. I don’t think the formal living room, with its white couch and grand piano, got much use, but I’m sure the “jungle room” and TV room were popular hangouts. It’s also cool to see all the sequined costumes and hundreds of gold records and other awards on display. Elvis, his parents, and grandmother are buried in the “meditation garden” on the property, but I doubt that much tranquil reflection happens with the streams of tourists passing through. And it’s amazing to see the dozens of tributes that continue to be sent by legions of adoring Elvis fans. Long live The King!

We also indulged in a two-night stay in Hot Springs, Arkansas. In days past, Hot Springs was a popular destination for well-to-do folks who came to relax and enjoy the “therapeutic” benefits of the mineral springs. Many of the luxurious hotels, spas and bathhouses that were built to accommodate them are still standing, although only one traditional bathhouse is still in operation. Ez and I decided to sign up for a $50 package at the historic Buckstaff Baths – it sounded like fun and it might be good for poor Ez’s back!

We were each directed to the separate men’s and women’s facilities, but our experiences were pretty similar. After doffing our duds and donning a sheet, we were escorted to a whirlpool bath – basically an old-fashioned cast iron bathtub with a whirlpool generated by a device that looked like a small outboard motor. Ez voted this the best part of his bathhouse experience. After 20 minutes, it’s on to the sitz bath – a small half-tub situated in a curtained alcove. You sit in the tub for about 10 minutes with your legs hanging out over the edge. While Ez then when on to enjoy a steam shower, in the ladies section I was directed to a steam bath. Yes, I sat in one of those metal boxes with just my head sticking out of the top – like you might have seen in the old movies! What a hoot! Next you lay wrapped in hot towels on a padded table for 20 minutes – very relaxing. The bathhouse experience concludes with a 20-minute Swedish massage. Not a bad deal for 50 bucks!

After Hot Springs, we continued our mad dash west. We made quick overnight stops in Oklahoma City and Amarillo and now we’re kicking back for a week in Santa Fe. We’re enjoying relaxing in this beautiful city, and Ez is finally able to get out and enjoy himself a little. He improves a little every day. There's more to come so stay tuned for the next episode in our travel adventure.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

New Hampshire, New York and Virginia - August, September 2007

We had a couple of sights to tick off of our “don’t miss list” as we headed west from Maine. But first we headed to New Hampshire for a couple of nights. We loved driving through the small towns and the hardwood forests where the leaves were just beginning to change. We tried to imagine how spectacular they’ll be in another month or two when they’re in full glory. Another plus – in three days we never encountered a single presidential candidate – amazing! Ez indulged me by spending an afternoon searching for all of the covered bridges in the area. I guess I owe him one, but I got some great photos.

We really logged some miles (unusual for us!) on the next leg of our journey to Montezuma, New York in the Finger Lakes Region. I always picture New York as such an urban area, so I was again pleasantly surprised to be driving through rolling green hills dotted with picture perfect farms with red barns and silos. We passed neat-as-a-pin Amish and Mennonite farms with draft horses in the barnyard (but no power lines to be seen). This is also wine country, so we stopped for a tasting at a couple of the vineyards and picked up a couple of bottles of surprisingly good Riesling.

But our ultimate New York destination on the "don't miss list" was Niagara Falls. Now, I admit, I always thought Niagara Falls was just a cheesy honeymoon destination with low-rent motels. And the American side does have its share of seedy gift shops and tourist attractions; the Canadian side has more of a Vegas feel with casinos and high-rises. But we spent most of a day touring the falls, and now I’ll put Niagara on my Top Ten List for this trip.

We traveled to several scenic points overlooking the falls, but my favorite stops were the ones where you get wet! After donning our “souvenir” raincoats and sandals, we hiked to the Cave of the Winds (which isn’t a cave at all) and climbed so close to the windswept mists from the American Falls it felt like being in a shower. I made the mistake of wearing jeans on this adventure, and they were soaked from the knees down! But what a thrill to be standing so close to the thundering torrent.

We got another “souvenir” raincoat for the boat trip on the Maid of the Mist. Standing on the open deck, we sailed up the Niagara River to the base of the Horseshoe Falls where we were surrounded by the roar of the cascading water. Nothing cheesy about this experience! That evening we capped off our Niagara Falls adventure with a swell dinner in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Skylon Tower on the Canadian side of the falls. After the up-close-and-wet adventures of the day, it was nice to sit back and watch the illuminated falls from a distance.

We headed south from Niagara, made a quick overnight stop in Pennsylvania, and then headed to the Shenandoah Valley region of western Virginia. Once again, the scenery is worth writing home about - hardwood forests, rolling hills, lush fields and quaint historic towns. We spent most of a day touring Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson (and the building pictured on the back of the nickel). Like Mount Vernon, Jefferson’s home and farm have also been restored to appear as they did when he lived here. Monticello is not only architecturally stunning, Jefferson also designed lots of unique features (such as pocket windows and built-in sleeping nooks) to make the building more efficient and convenient. When you tour this beautiful home, it’s easy to imagine what a joy it would have been to live here so long ago.

We also toured Montpelier, the home of James and Dolly Madison, which is also nearby. Although the grounds were stunning, the building itself is undergoing major restoration and the walls inside have been stripped down to the lathe. Not very elegant, but interesting to see the meticulous work that goes into the complete restoration of an historic home.

We’ll continue to head west across the Allegheny Mountains and into Tennessee. Check back soon for another update.