Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Vermont (Part 2)

First stop on our second day in Vermont: The Ben & Jerry's Factory. Who doesn't like ice cream in the morning? We opted to take the tour, which didn't last very long, but which was pretty comical, even the "corporate video." It was probably the least corporate thing I've seen and quite amusing. The factory part itself is quite small, but it was cool to peek down on the pints of ice cream speeding down the belt. The best part of the tour was, of course, the tasting at the end. Our group had Half Baked. This is one of my favorites, so I was happy, but it might have been nice to taste a flavor I'd never had before. One of the highlights for us was a stop at the Flavor Graveyard, where tombstones with stirring elegies, paid tribute to flavors that have passed away.

A pint of Americone Dream later we were on our way to the Northeast Kingdom. How awesome is that name? I want to live in a Kingdom! The Northeast Kingdowm, for those of you not in the know, is a collection of towns in the (surprise, surprise) northeast section of Vermont. All of the towns are small and idyllic. We enjoyed a picnic lunch in Craftsbury Common (see pictures from the first trip entry) before heading over to Lake Willoughby.

Lake Willoughby is a glacial lake wedged between Mt. Pisgah and Mt. Hor. It's stunning, especially when viewed from above, so we made the hour's ascent to the top of Mt. Pisgah. As we neared the top, we began to encounter pine trees and the air smelled crisp and sweet like Christmas. It was a great hike.

Back down the mountain, we proceeded just a few miles further to our night's accommodations: the Village Inn of East Burke. What a great find! A small bed and breakfast, the rooms are large and nicely decorated and out back there's a jacuzzi, a burbling brook with a fire pit beside it, and a large garden from which you're welcome to help yourself. The breakfast was something else too...homemade toast and jam, produce straight from the garden, fresh eggs. Mmm. We're already making plans to go back to this place...maybe to take advantage of their winter time ski packages.

We ended our time in Vermont with a dinner at Juniper's at the Wildflower Inn. The food wasn't anything to write home about, but the view was spectacular. We sat on an enclosed back patio and watched the sun set into the valley as butterflies and hummingbirds fluttered nearby. If it didn't get so darn cold in winter, I'd seriously consider moving to Vermont. If you haven't been, go. It's a great place.

Vermont (Part 1)

Of all the states we visited on our trip, Vermont just might have been our favorite. It was simply beautiful. The drives were never boring; there was always something scenic to look at. And the towns were friendly, walkable, and very homey.

We started out in the Lake Champlain Islands, which lie between Burlington, VT and Plattsburgh, NY, and which are just a bit south of Canada. We drove from South Hero to North Hero and over to Alburg. All are tiny little places and the entire set of islands is very popular with bikers. We hopped from place to place, with our first stop Allenholm Orchard. It wasn't quite apple season yet, but we enjoyed browsing the other goods--maple syrup, maple candy, farm fresh produce--and checking out the small petting zoo area.

From the orchard, we headed to the local winery, Snow Farm Vineyards, where we did a tasting and then picked up a bottle of red along with some cheddar, a tomato, and a cucumber. The tomato and cucumber were "pay what you want," which was cool.

Right by the vineyard is the field I mentioned below, where hundreds of bird houses adorned a field. As I was snapping pictures of the tree art, Jeff ran into the owner of the land out on a walk. Apparently, the houses are home to tree swallows, which eat mosquitoes, thus allowing the man and his wife to sit outside without getting eaten up. He put up his first houses fifteen years ago, starting with just 20. His wife is the one who convinced him to paint them in all the different bold colors. After the first year, he checked out the houses and realized that almost every one was occupied. He's continued to add new houses each year and now has over 400 houses with at least a 70% occupancy rate. Pretty cool. And pretty to look at too.

Moving on from South Hero to North Hero, our next stop was North Hero's Welcome, a general store that sells just about everything you can imagine, including the loaf of bread we purchased. Then it was on to Lakes End Cheeses to pick up some goat cheese. Jeff rang the bell as directed and was served by the goat below while I was admiring the geraniums growing in an old pair of boots. (Okay, not really, the goat was just looking for food, and we had to go inside to purchase the cheese from a human.)

With a full picnic now in hand, we enjoyed a picnic lunch at Alburg Dunes State Park, where Jeff also braved the cold water for a swim. I, unable to handle the cold, read in the sunshine instead.

Touring the islands took most of our day, but we rolled into Burlington in the evening and had a very delicious dinner at a place called Daily Planet. (I highly recommend the shrimp tempura appetizer.) Burlington has a very nice pedestrian downtown area that we enjoyed wandering as it got dark. We also tried the brew at the Vermont Pub & Brewery. I can't say I was all that impressed, but then again, beer doesn't really ever do much for me.

Two Articles

My first ever feature article appeared in this past Sunday's Frederick News Post. I have to add a new category to the Clips page of my Web site, and I haven't figured out how to do that yet, so if you want to read it, you have to go the FNP site. Hopefully I'll add it to my Web site this weekend, and you can then check it out on www.theresablackinton.com. Mr. Lew Wade was an interesting subject, and I enjoyed interviewing him.

I also made my debut in a major national publication this month. A tiny little blurb (and I do mean tiny) appears in the September edition of National Geographic Traveler. You can find my blurb on page 55 in the Under $150 section of Hotel Central. I wrote the section on the Juniper Lane Guesthouse on San Juan Island. Unfortunately in giving me credit, Traveler misspelled my last name. Oh well, what can you do? I'm hoping to follow-up sometime soon with a piece that's a bit longer. And who knows, maybe one day, my name (correctly spelled) will be attached to one of their feature articles. Now wouldn't that be cool?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cape Cod: Days 1 & 2

The first stop on our New England road trip was Cape Cod. Nearly the entire way up to the Cape, it rained. And not just a sprinkle. It rained sheets, buckets, cats & dogs. Not a fortuitous start to to our trip...especially since we were going to be camping the first two nights. Luckily, the rain disappeared, leaving behind beautiful skies, such as those seen in the picture below taken on Nauset Light beach on the Cape Cod National Seashore.

It was a little too chilly for swimming, but it was nice to walk around. The expanse of the ocean is something I never get tired of. And we spotted a seal off shore. It was a beautiful scene of blues and white, with the brown sand serving as the perfect contrast. And up the dunes were a couple of houses perfectly reminiscent of those that appear in paintings by Edward Hopper.

The lighthouse below lends its name to the beach above. After visiting the beach, Jeff and I headed down to the tip of the Cape, to Provincetown, for the evening. In a word, P-town (as the locals call it), is flamboyant. Rainbow flags arch across the street (is it ironic that we saw a real rainbow right out over the harbor?), galleries show off bold artwork, and transvestites strut down the streets just begging for you to stare. We had an entertaining time people watching. Dinner wasn't particularly memorable, but the malasadas we had after dinner were perfectly sweet and hot out of the grease.

With the rain completely gone, we had a good night's sleep in our tent...the tent that looked so terribly tiny compared to nearly everyone else's set up. We have a backpacking tent. A small structure that weights just a couple of pounds, which can be put up in a mere minute, which you cannot even begin to think about standing up in, and which has just the right amount of room for Jeff and I and nothing else. Everyone else at this campground had tents as our big as our living room, tents that had rooms, tents that connected to other tents through tunnels. Tents for eating in and tents for sleeping in and tents for just hanging out in. And that's not even to start in on the RVs...oh dear lord. This was our first experience car camping (versus backwoods camping), and it was an education.

Anyhow, we spent our second day on the Cape in the saddle, bike saddle that is. The Cape Cod Rail Trail runs 22 miles and takes you past freshwater ponds, beaches, farmer's markets and through some of the Cape's towns. It was a good way to get a look at the Cape while enjoying the beautiful weather.

The entire trail was very idyllic. I mean, how rough can life be while sitting in an Adirondack chair next to your sailboat on the edge of a lovely pond, perhaps enjoying a view of lovely waterlilies?

After our bike ride (which included a really delicious lunch of a crabcake sandwich and a curry chicken wrap from a place called Blue Willow), we grabbed ice cream at JT's. I was struck by the sheer number of ice cream joints on the Cape. It was wild. I don't think there's that many ice cream shops in Florida, or somewhere with a much longer ice cream season. (I do think there might, however, be more Cape Cod style houses in Florida (or anywhere else) than there are on Cape Cod. That was another thing that struck me. How did that style of house come to be called a Cape Cod when there aren't even that many on the Cape? Hmmm?).

Ok...back to the topic at hand. We spent the afternoon at the Cape Cod League baseball game, and then grabbed dinner at a place in Chatham called Kreme & Kone. The name isn't very revealing, as it's actually a place to get heaping plates of fried seafood. Jeff had a clam strip platter and I had a fish sandwich. Thank God I passed on the platter, because Jeff's came with a mountain of onion rings and fries that was more than enough for the two of us. Mmm, mmm fried goodness. And yes, it was good, but I'm pretty sure I could feel my arteries clogging with each bite.

How I went to sleep with all that in my stomach is a mystery I can't explain, but we again slept well (I've yet to have a bad night in the tent...it's kind of surprising but I sleep like a baby whenever we camp), and then headed out the next day, destination Vermont.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What's a Vacation Without Baseball

One major theme to our trip was baseball. I know...shocking. We ended up going to three games during our trip (we also went to an Orioles game the day before our trip). We pretty much picked our vacation days based on when we could fit all these games in, and despite one of the games being delayed a day by rain, we managed to make it to all three: a Cape Cod Baseball League playoff game, a Red Sox game at Fenway, and a Yankees game at Yankee Stadium.

The Cape Cod League is the premier summer baseball league for college players. We caught one of the very last games of the season. It's a very cool atmosphere. Admission is free, the games are played at high school fields, pitchers who aren't in the days rotation walk around selling raffle tickets and giving out high fives, and boy do the fans come out in support. The hardcore fans come out in advance of the game and leave their lawn chairs to mark their spots. Later fans crowd in so much that I counted people ten deep around the first and third base lines. And kids are everywhere...watching, playing, hoping for foul balls, collecting player's autographs. Two Rice players were on the team we watched play. I think this picture shows one of them at bat.

Fenway--hallowed ground in the world of baseball and Jeff had never been. It's a small, intimate stadium that's home to a popular team so tickets are hard to come by. It's not uncommon to have to pay an arm and a leg for tickets. Fortunately, we were able to get two tickets down the right field line for only an arm. It was worth it. Here's Jeff outside the gates.

And here's a view of the stadium from center field. We got there quite early so that Jeff could check out the place.

I think Fenway has to be one of the best places to watch a game. All of the seats are close to the field...none of the nosebleed sections so popular in today's gigantic stadiums. And the atmosphere is fantastic. Everyone is at the game to watch the game and cheer for their team. The lead was traded back and forth in the last few innings of the game, and the Red Sox fans were on their feet the whole time. In the end, the Red Sox couldn't pull it off, but the game was great fun anyways.

Completing Jeff's visit to the three classic baseball stadiums (we visited Wrigley a few summers ago) was a trip to Yankee Stadium. It couldn't compare to Fenway, but I'm glad we got a chance to see a game there before it becomes history.

Jeff had fun playing sports photographer during the game. He caught some good action shots. Here's two of them.

More vacation posts to come, but probably not until next week. We leave for Asheville tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

We're Back

Unfortunately, vacation is over. But we had a great time and saw a ton. It might take me a while to get around to posting a fully illustrated summary. We have a reception to attend in Asheville this weekend and a wedding to attend in Louisville next weekend. So free time is a little hard to come by. But to tide you over, I'll try to post a few fun pictures each day to give you a taste of the trip. Hope you enjoy.

An afternoon on the Cape Cod beaches.

Five of over four hundred bird feeders in a small field on South Hero, Vermont.

A picnic lunch in Craftsbury Commons in Northeast Kingdom, Vermont.

Leaves floating in a pond under a wooden bridge in Acadia National Park.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

On the Road Again

Jeff and I leave for vacation tomorrow. This year we've decided to take advantage of our location and explore the Northeast, an area neither of us are too familiar with. As usual, we've packed a ton of stuff into our days. We're thinking of this trip as a sampler, a highlights tour. Try a little bit of a lot of places, and if we find something we really like, then we can always go back. Here's the general itinerary.

Friday, August 10: Cape Cod, Massachusetts
We hope to arrive in the early afternoon and will spend the day exploring a few towns and maybe checking out the beach (although it looks like it might be a bit cool). In the evening, we plan to catch a Cape Cod League baseball game. We'll be camping that night at Sweetwater Forest.

Saturday, August 11: Cape Cod, Massachusetts
We're planning to spend the day biking the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which will take us to quite a few towns and by the National Seashore. We will also visit Provincetown.

Sunday, August 12: Burlington, Vermont and Lake Champlain Islands
We'll leave the Cape early and head for the Burlington area of Vermont, where we plan to check out the islands in Lake Champlain and do a bit of wandering around the "big" town of Burlington.

Monday, August 13: Northeast Kingdom, Vermont
Our first stop on our way out of Burlington will be at the Ben & Jerry's factory for a tour. Then we'll head up into the Northeast Kingdom to check out some cute towns and do a bit of hiking. We hope to go up Mt. Pisgah for the stunning view of Lake Willoughby. We'll spend the night in the town of East Burke

Tuesday, August 14: New Hampshire
We'll spend the day making our way across New Hampshire, spending most of our time in the White and Presidential mountains doing some hiking. We'll then cross into Maine and stop for the night somewhere along the path to Acadia.

Wednesday, August 15: Acadia National Park
We'll spend the day exploring Acadia...hiking, checking out the rocky beaches, pounding lobster, biking. We'll then camp at Blackwoods Campground.

Thursday, August 16: Maine Coast to Portland, Maine
We'll make our way down the Maine coast to Portland (with a stop in Freeport for the L.L. Bean store).

Friday, August 17: Maine Coast to Boston
We'll spend the day making our way down the coast of Maine, stopping at any towns that catch our fancy before ending up in Boston, where we'll catch a Redsox game at Fenway.

Saturday, August 18: Boston to Connecticut
We'll spend most of the day seeing the sights of Boston before heading down to the area of Connecticut not far outside of New York City for the night.

Sunday, August 19: New York City
We'll head into the city for the 1:05 Yankees game, then visit a few sites and spend the night in the city at the hotel we booked for a whopping $19.31. (Don't worry, it's not sketchy, we just got one hell of a deal. It's the Tudor Hotel at the United Nations.)

Monday, August 20: New York City to Home
We'll see a bit more of the city that never sleeps before heading home, exhausted I'm sure and in need of another week off work just to recuperate.

It should be a lot of fun though. We'll get to see a lot, do a lot of outdoors stuff, and visit a few cool cities. Here's hoping for good weather and safe roads.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Alexandria, VA

I know you've all been curious forever. So check out my most recent article on my website or on the Frederick News-Post site.

Today I did an interview with a 92 year old former DJ and country musician for an assignment with the Frederick News-Post. I can't scoop myself, so you'll have to read the article when I get it written and it's published. Pretty interesting guy though, and all I can hope is that I am as sharp-witted, funny, and able-bodied as he is when I reach that age.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Happy Anniversary to Us

On Monday, Jeff and I celebrated our anniversary in style...presidential-candidate style. Just like John and Elizabeth Edwards, who happen to also have been married on July 30, we had our anniversary dinner at Wendy's. Ahhh. Romantic, isn't it?

Don't fret. The romance isn't already that dead. I was just out of town all weekend and didn't get in until late on Monday, so Wendy's was one of the few available options. And knowing that would be the case, we went ahead and celebrated on Friday with a big dinner out. Two years already. It's flown by.