DC Redo #2: Jim and Annie

When we moved to Maryland in 1991, we knew nobody there. Not a soul.  Jim was into motorcycling then (see how our vehicles have increased in size?) One fall day we went up to Jessup, Maryland to Bob’s BMW for a chili cookout. It seemed logical that we might meet some like-minded souls there. And so we did.


Jim Ford was not working there selling motorcycles yet, but he was a serious iron-butt kinda guy who loved to ride. He and Wilkerson hit it off and became riding buddies almost immediately. One day we ended up on a couples ride and had a lovely warm lunch at the Olney Ale House with Jim and Annie. Our friendship just grew from there. About four years in, we hated to break the news to them that we were moving out of state; they had become such good friends. It is always good to catch up with them and we have visited back and forth several times since our move to (and from) Kansas.


Annie is a long-time court reporter on Capitol Hill so she is a very busy girl. She used to work Congress and all the hearings there but now she works exclusively for the World Bank. Jim is the force behind the successful Riders Workshop, a mountain riding course designed to improve your motorcycling skills in the mountains. He knows all the “invisible roads” in the Virginia/West Virginia/Pennsylvania and North Carolina area and he has built a following of clients throughout the country. I am pleased to say that when he was developing The Rider’s Workshop I worked with him on his promotional material and website. See his site here.

The only reason we swung down to DC from Philly was 1) to visit Jim and Annie and Charlie and Diane and  2)  we were nearby. Since we lived there, we had seen all the historic stuff and just wanted to relax, recharge and eat and drink. And, oh yeah, we did. We didn’t even drive by our old house.

IMG_6692  IMG_6693

On Wednesday Jim came out to Garden Gate and picked us up for a home-cooked dinner at their house. Whatever it is that Jim is interested in, he does it well and thoroughly and dinner was no exception. We started with chips and guac on the patio of their lovely landscape in Kensington. With cocktails. They have a beautiful back (and front) yard that has matured and grown beautifully since we left in 1995. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pics of the yard due to the aforementioned eating and drinking. And Zen, the Weimaraner was worthy of lots of attention too. He is a lot different from Scout, the Weimaraner they had when we lived there. Zen lives up to his name while Scout was, well, all over the place.


Jim also showed us his “current” bikes, two BMWs and his newest love, a Ducati.

IMG_6696  IMG_6697  IMG_6699  IMG_6698

Dinner was a treat, eggplant parmigiano that was cooked to perfection with a broccoli and veggie side. So delicious! And for dessert? Homemade peach ice cream! We continue to eat like kings! The evening went by so fast it was dizzying. Jim took us back to the bus afterwards; we were very thankful for the ride.

It was so nice to see Annie and Jim; we have a really special place in our hearts for them. And our stomachs.

Next stop: Damascus, Virginia to ride the entirety of The Virginia Creeper Trail.

DC Redux: Charlie and Diane

Charlie and Diane Bowers, our good friends and gracious hosts

We had an uneventful drive to Washington DC, except for getting on a couple of toll roads (Rt. 200 in MD) where you had to have EZ Pass, No Cash. We never encountered a toll booth but friends in the DC area said we would be hearing from them, “If they can catch up with you.” We’ll have to see how that plays out.


We parked in the yard at Garden Gate Landscaping in Silver Spring, a great spot and close to the DC area. I used to work there when we lived in DC and Charlie Bowers, my boss, friend and mentor set us up with a quiet and shady spot for the bus. We laid low the first day we were there and it was nice to have a do nothing day. My cold was in full swing by that time so probably a good idea not to infect the general public. Just our friends! HA!

Since we lived in DC for four years, we didn’t do any of the tourist stuff; we had seen plenty at our leisure while we lived there. We stuck to Silver Spring, Ellicott City and Kensington.

The landscape design around the Garden Gate office and yard is completely different than when I worked there and it was a delight to explore.

DSC_0221  DSC_0235 DSC_0223
DSC_0242  DSC_0239

On Tuesday Charlie and Diane picked us up at the bus and we went to lunch at a Cuban restaurant Charlie had scoped out with a purpose in mind. Charlie is an exceptional guy. Not only is he an accomplished landscape designer with many award winning landscapes under his belt, he is an adventurer and photographer extraordinaire. When I worked with him at Garden Gate, I was just getting into computers and imaging and having the exposure and his expertise at hand during that time made a big difference in my development. I did the landscape imaging; taking a picture of a house and adding plantings and hardscapes so that the client could imagine what the finished result would look like. Now they have whole propgrams designed to do this, but back in 1991 we built up a plant library of images and Photoshopped everything. Great experience for me since I was just falling in love with Photoshop.

When Jim got transferred by SAS to Kansas City, it was very difficult to break the news to Charlie; he had invested heavily in my training and I felt bad for leaving; I really loved working there. He hired me to come back a couple of times to produce some portfolio books in “The Cave” at his house where I developed serious and ongoing printer envy.


I designed this logo after we moved to KC; it was cool to see it on the trucks still.

After we moved to Kansas City, Charlie came out and drew us up a landscape plan for our pond, patio and garden. The landscape and pond were the very best things about our house and the hardest to leave. We certainly enjoyed ourselves thoroughly while we lived there though. My friend Shirley always said we had the most beautiful back yard. She was right.

Anyway, he has an upcoming show at a gallery in Frederick, Maryland called Faces of Cuba. There are so many remarkable images in the group; it will be a very difficult task to narrow them down to the 20 or so he is going to hang. He had the idea of going around to the local Cuban restaurants and seeing if they would offer a coupon for attendees of the show. We had a delicious lunch at Cuba de Ayer and enjoyed catching up with them. It had been about 15 years since my last week-long trip to DC to produce portfolio books. We fell back into easy conversation, the hallmark of good and lasting friends.

After the lunch, he approached the owner and she told him that she was at that very minute looking online for art to buy for the restaurant! Can you say Good Timing? His show opens October 31 and if you are anywhere near the DC area you should plan to attend. The images are killer. See more of his exceptional art/photography/digital painting here.

Then we headed to his house in Ellicot City to see the revamping of his home landscape. It too was completely different than when I saw it last. Plus they have three beautiful Maine Coon kitties. Every landscape is better with a kitty in it. Lots of rock involved too.

IMG_6677 IMG_6667  IMG_6688  IMG_6662  IMG_6656   
IMG_6658  IMG_6660  IMG_6659
IMG_6670 IMG_6671 IMG_6680 IMG_6685

What a great visit with Diane and Charlie. Charlie and I could have talked art for many hours; he is getting into digital painting and all manner of apps and adjustments. And the printers and paper, the whole printmaking process I love. His stuff is really exceptional and he is prolific. The prints come alive on the paper. He has several whole exhibitions in just the finished work we saw. Such  a privilege and a true delight to take in so much good work. A treat for the eyes and the soul! Go see his show.

We are very fortunate and we know it. Our humble thanks to the universe for our blessing of friends.


More photos on Flickr.





Cabinet Makers Addendum

So it took me awhile to get around to it, but I’ve been meaning to finish the post on our computer cabinet. Wendy posted the first time showing the cabinet work itself, but after we got home from that trip, I started the wiring project in earnest. I just never posted the finished result. So here’s a shot of the finished cabinet in place sans wiring and network equipment.


Previous Cabinet Makers post October, 2013.

My plan was to have a nice looking albeit small, low profile place to store the various laptops, keyboards, ipads, routers, hotspots, etc. Up to that point all of that stuff just got piled up in a corner or shoved into a bag of some kind. The other goal was to provide a convenient way to keep it all charged! My goal was to have all of our computer and network equipment stored in the cabinet and have everything running/charging on 12 vdc. I almost succeeded :).

I also wanted each component to have a specific slot for storage and charging. That way, we don’t have to keep track of which cable should be used for a specific device. The device will only fit in one place and the charge cord is already attached! Simple, clean and elegant! The plans for the cabinet already anticipated the various locations for each device, so when I started wiring it up I first had to build some padded enclosures for each device. I bought three sheets of dense packing foam and made some very basic drawings to guide the construction.

I took basic measurements of each device: Ipad, Ipod, cell phone and laptop. Just in case, I built the cell phone enclosures for an Iphone. I also included some open storage slots for miscellaneous cords, thumb drives, keyboards, mice, etc. Here’s a pic of my rough plans.


I used Super99 spray adhesive and pieces of cardboard to shield that parts I wanted to protect from the spray.


Construction paper worked nicely for templates and above you can see a few of the foam pieces prior to glue-up. I just built up the layers until I had an ‘empty’ space for each device.

Here’s are a couple of  shots of the Ipad/Ipod/Iphone enclosure under construction. Once finished, this will fit into the upper left cabinet door and all those expensive toys will have their own comfy, safe place to ride.



I had to do some extensive internet research to find all of the charging equipment that I needed. For example, the Dell laptops came with chargers for 120vac only. I could not find any hard-wire chargers for the laptops, so I settled for chargers for a car lighter and bought a hard-wire lighter socket. Ipads use USB for charging, but they require a higher amperage charger in order to fully charge. Since most USB chargers are 1A, your standard 12vdc USB charger won’t work. In addition, Apple builds in some special circuitry that will prevent your generic hard-wire charger from working. Oh, by the way, those multi-port USB devices you can buy – they usually are for data only and often only have one USB port wired for charging!

I also wanted hard-wire devices so I could connect directly to a 12vdc fuse panel. Since the Ipods are also charged via USB, but don’t require as many amps, the Ipad solution works for them also. I had to find 12vdc chargers for our LG cell phones. If we ever switch to Iphones, the necessary wiring is already in place since they (planned obsolescence notwithstanding) require the same USB charging port as the Ipad.

Since I wanted everything to run on 12vdc, I bought a nice compact 12vdc fuse panel from Blue Sea, I found a plunger type switch at my local hardware store and ran a new 12vdc circuit from the house dc wiring distribution block using 6GA cable. That’s probably overkill, but better safe than sorry and I had it lying around anyway.

Here’s a shot of the wiring just before I put the cabinet back in place. I also had to run some antenna and Ethernet jumpers up into the cabinets above the salon windows. I wanted hard-wire Ethernet for the NAS, DVD and TV and I had an antenna for the hotspot cradle on the roof.


The top row of coiled cables are the USB chargers hard-wired directly to the fuse panel. Below that to the left is a blank space outlined in blue tape for our WiFiRanger Mobile router. Just to the right of that is an empty space for the hotspot cradle and directly below is the charger for the cradle itself. The hotspot is powered from the router. Next in line to the right is the fuse panel, the plunger switch and then the socket and chargers for the laptops. The cabinet will nicely hide all of the wiring.

Here area few shots of the completed project with several of the devices in place. I think it turned out better than I hoped. The only thing I was not able to do is find and wire a 12vdc  power adapter for the NAS, TV and DVD. Those all require clean 120vac, so our Trace SW4024 inverter can power those easily off the house battery bank. All the computing and entertainment you need and no shore power connection required.

IMG_6706 IMG_6707 IMG_6708 IMG_6705



Philly Part Two

Returning to Philadelphia was like coming home. Michael picked us up at the airport and we were back at the pool in no time. Felt so good to soak up the warmth after literally freezing in the services (and later catching a cold).

I must digress for a moment. The minute I walked in the funeral home, I said to one of the funeral guys, “It’s FREEZING in here!” He promised to take care of it, no problem. It just got worse. By the time the service was over, my feet and hands were blocks of ice. I checked the thermostat on the wall and it said the temperature was 66 degrees. Who do you know that keeps their house at 66 degrees in the wintertime? I went outside to warm up and held the door for several people who agreed that it was super cold in there. Also, I hate when I mention how cold it is to someone and they pinch my scrawny arm and say, “Well, you don’t have any insulation on you…” I really hate that. 


DSC_0172   DSC_0141

When Jim emailed our arriving flight info and asked about the cats, Michael emailed back, “Are the cats OK? When I went in to feed them this morning I found two of them playing dominoes and the other sheepishly closing the refrigerator door with one paw and a snack in its mouth.” Anyway,  it was good to be back to the kitties and all was well.

We enjoyed more fabulous meals with Michael and Randy, most of them at home where your taste buds are always in for a treat. One afternoon we attended a cookout in the backyard by the pool, “nothing fancy.” The burgers were perfectly cooked, the tomatoes were ripe, the cranberry relish was simply indescribable. The whole company was great fun and we laughed and ate and drank all afternoon. There was also another of Randy’s famous apple pies involved. Also tiny grapes. Delicious tiny grapes.

We wanted to do something for these guys being so awesome and all, so one night we took them to Paris Bistro and Jazz Club where we dined on delicious fare. Unhurried, impeccable service and remarkable food. I had lamb that made me feel like I was back in New Zealand. A most excellent evening and as Randy told the server every time she came around, we were “happy people.”

A few nights later was our farewell dinner with them since they had plans on Saturday before we pulled out Sunday. I thought we had eaten well the night before at Paris Bistro! We started with Michael’s delicious roast fennel soup. Served cold, it was like nothing I have ever tasted. In a very good way. Then the main course of perfectly marinated and seared rare swordfish. Swordfish is one of my favorite foods anyway, but they took it to new heights. Melt-in-your-mouth with an unforgettable marinade. Served with “local” lima beans that had never been out of their back yard. Garden to table. It was fabulous. And a tart and tasty dessert too. We better get back on the bikes pretty soon.

Of course, there was a project for the guys. Last time, they propped up the vine, this time they removed a bent-over, sagging birch tree that was threatening the rhododendrons. Jim and Michael weeded the chain link fence row too. I sharpened the chain on the saw.

DSC_0147   DSC_0168
DSC_0155 DSC_0158   DSC_0162   DSC_0171

When we got back from KC we noticed that Tikita, the white cat, was visiting the litter box more frequently than usual and only peeing a small amount. We knew this was an indicator for a urinary tract infection and after a little googling, Jim found a house-call vet who came right to the bus and fixed her up. Gave her an antibiotic shot and some medicine to poke down her for ten days. She actually seemed to like the medicine and improved rapidly. Tikita is a tough kitty.


We did miss the PNBR but it was the evening before we left, it rained and I had a cold and we will make a date to try it next year. If Michael and Randy will have us, that is…

IMG_6635 IMG_6636
The last day we were there, my sister Tina and her husband Albert came and visited us in the bus. We had a nice long visit and we were very happy to have them come over. Every time I hear Jim describe all the work he has done to interested parties (not everybody is) , I realize again how much he has done to make the bus comfortable, safe and workable for us. YAY Jim!
DSC_0192  DSC_0200 DSC_0202 DSC_0207 DSC_0187  IMG_6646
We can’t thank Michael and Randy enough. It ended up being almost three weeks that we were there but we had a great spot in the garden and driveway guests beat houseguests every time.  We had a nice quiet spot in the garden in the middle of the city with art and beautiful plantings all around. Michael and Randy are the types that you just fall back into step with, the best of friends.

We love these guys.

We did finally pull out with no excitement except a couple of missed turns (of course!) on our way to DC to visit old friends.

More pics on Flickr.



We Interrupt our Programming…

To fly back to Kansas City for Jim’s mom’s funeral. And for me to catch a cold due to the freezing arctic temperatures in the funeral home. Michael and Randy not only graciously allowed us to leave the bus in their driveway, but to also take care of the cats and drive us to the airport. We can’t say how thankful and humbled we are top have such good friends. Michael says, “Not a problem!” when we get a little too thankful about it all…

Except for sitting on the runway for an hour or so before takeoff due to weather, all went as well as can be expected at such an event.

Lots of cousins came in from all over so it was fun to see them and get together. New baby George was there as well as the bigger kids. Time is flying, folks.

Some pics:

At the cemetery. She would have loved all the pink.

Chris and Laura. “We made up!” Hallelujah!
Mother and son, Janet and Ben
They could be sisters!
Two dads, Tyler and Matt
Jim and me with his dad

More pics here.

Frequent Flier Miles are Supposed to be for Fun Stuff…

But not this time. Jim’s mom died on August 22, just over a month after we got going on our travels. We are flying back to KC from Philadelphia  for the services this Labor Day weekend. Maybe not the best way to spend the holiday weekend; but appropriate too, since she always assumed the entire family would gather at the lake for this (and every) holiday. She had a good long life, well lived. We are sorry to see her go and Jim’s dad will be affected the most. But I am also thankful; that she is not living with the low quality of life she had for the last year or so. She was 91. So back we go.

We had been here about a week and were planning to move on to DC in a few days when we got the news. Fortunately, we are parked in some good friends’ driveway and they have graciously allowed us to not only leave the bus here while we are gone but they offered to look after the cats too. The services weren’t until ten days after her death so we have squatted here longer than we planned. What did we do to deserve such good friends?

Before we got to Philadelphia, where we are now, we stopped in West Chester, Pennsylvania to have a nice evening and dinner with old friends from Columbia. They made roast chicken, salad, corn on the cob and sweet potatoes. We have been eating like kings! We enjoyed catching up, dinner and seeing pictures from their recent bicycle tour of Austria. They took a tandem which broke down into two suitcases. Jealous much? I have never ridden a tandem but would like to try. Thanks Janice and Gary!


Getting to the Elks Lodge in West Chester was a little tricky. We mistakenly took the bus right through the quaint downtown and missed our sharp right turn into the lodge which necessitated driving down some very narrow streets with cars parked on both sides. Why does all this high anxiety stuff always have to happen when it’s my turn to drive? Once we got to the Elks, we had a very nice spot to park.


We drove partway across Pennsylvania on the Turnpike, not even across the whole state and our toll was like $63.00! Yikes! Some cool tunnels on the way.


In the time we have been here I visited my sister who lives very close by, we have ridden bikes, I got some work done and we went to the beach, besides having some great meals and pie.

IMG_6542  IMG_6529
Sister Tina and me. We had a great visit and I ate more pie.

IMG_6547  IMG_6548
The day at Sandy Hook was absolutely worth the long drive. We picked up sandwiches at Edie’s in Sandy Hook and spent the day playing in the waves, reading The New Yorker and people watching. Oh and drinking beer.

DSC_0178  IMG_6524
Our quiet and colorful surroundings and a delicious tomato pasta dish Michael concocted.

We are humbled and so very grateful for the good friends and the blessings flowing our way. When we get back, we will stay another day or so to ride the trails and to downtown Philly and then we will head for DC before swinging south for the winter.


Fallingwater…And The Kindness of Strangers

While we were in Confluence, we discovered from the map that Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, was nearby. According to our calculations, all we had to do was ride 12 miles on the Great Allegheny Passage to Ohiopyle, then just another four miles to get to Fallingwater. We knew it would be hillier than the trail, but how bad could it be? HA!

I got tickets online the day before and the day after my birthday we headed out, giving ourselves plenty of time for our 3:00 PM tour and a picnic lunch. It was a Saturday and the trail and the river were busy with bicyclists and kayakers.  We got to Ohioplye just fine and headed up the road to Fallingwater. The first uphill stretch wasn’t too bad and we persevered. The next hill was longer and steeper uphill as we should have realized by our drive in to the campground with the eight and 10% grades. Doable in the bus, not so much on the bikes. We pushed the bikes uphill and then started to descend. OH. MY. GOD.

I have been down plenty of steep hills on my bike before but they didn’t go straight downhill for miles on end. You can’t use your brakes too much or you will heat up the rims and give yourself a flat. Jim said he didn’t let himself get over 30 MPH but I was too terrified preoccupied to even look at the speedometer. Just trying to stay upright, not go too fast and not kill myself or get a flat.

By the time we made it to Fallingwater, I was shaking all over. 35 MPH downhill for what-seemed-like miles was a little disconcerting. We walked the bikes into the parking lot and started investigating the grounds, which were extensive.

There was a beautiful cutting garden and rhododendrons everywhere! Supposedly no photography was allowed inside the house but we saw people doing it anyway. I would have liked to but respected the rules. For once.

IMG_6500  IMG_6505

Untitled-3 copy
Above pic from the Interwebs, scaffolding and people when we were there, above. Interior pics from the web too.
Untitled-1 copy Untitled-2

We had a very good guide who explained the history and design of the house in a knowledgeable and unhurried manner. The descriptions of the way Frank Lloyd Wright dealt with the Kaufmans, the owners, was interesting. Apparently he was very dictatorial, positioning the house in a completely different place than the clients had anticipated. They thought they would have a view of the falls; instead he positioned it so the falls became an integral part of the house itself.  Steps from the living room descended into the stream above the falls, forming a little pool. The rock floors and walls brought the outdoors in and integrated the building into the site.

IMG_6507 IMG_6506
Large boulders in the mountain itself anchor the back of the house, snugged into the rock face.  Wright had the furniture built right into the house, per his style, and dictated the colors of accessories throughout the house, although it was up to the Kaufmans to choose the textiles since they traveled extensively. Wright refused to build a garage, all practicality aside. Garages were pedestrian and not in his vision for his grandiose crowning jewel of 1930s architecture.

The guest house above the house appears to be part of the main house upon approach, sort of a spire or topknot. This was deliberately planned by Wright (of course!) and gave a taller, grander appearance. The whole afternoon was completely enjoyable and took our minds off the fact that we would be riding back on the bikes the same way we came. The downhills would just be in the opposite direction this time.

In the parking lot, on the way back to the bikes, we saw a couple and I said to the guy, “I don’t suppose you have a pickup truck, do you?” He said he did and was heading to Ohioppyle and would be happy to take us and our bikes back to the trail. WOO HOO!

But then his girlfriend reminded him that they were in her truck and it had two kayaks in the back. Oops! Back to the road. We were able to ride a little ways then had to start pushing the bikes uphill again. That is a lot of work. Not sure which is worse, plodding uphill or flying downhill. At almost the top of the first big hill, I looked back and an empty full size pickup approached. I stuck out my thumb just for the heck of it; I was resigned to walking and flying by this time. He drove by. Oh well. A few minutes later, we saw him coming back! He pulled off, turned around for us and said “You guys broke down?” I should have just said Yes. I’m sure these western Pennsylvania folks think it’s crazy to not ride the hills. Maybe if I was Lance Armstrong…

Anyway, he gave us and the bikes a ride back to the trail which took like two minutes, it seemed after the long slog in the other direction. We tried to give him some money but he refused. I was very grateful.

The 12 miles back to Ohiopyle were easy and uneventful. Mostly.


The Great Allegheny Passage

The Ohio-Erie Canal Towpath Trails were beautiful and fun to ride, but it was time to move on. We had scoped out the Great Allegheny Passage, a rails-to-trails path that runs 134 miles from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland. It hooks up with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath and you can ride to Washington DC. The whole trip is about 235 miles, minus side trips. We planned on just riding some sections. Jim found a the Outflow Campground, so we GPSed the address (and iPad mapped it) and headed out for the banks of the Youghiogheny River. The what? How the heck do you pronounce that?

First the roads were fairly straightforward highways while I was driving but soon we got into the mountains. With Jim at the wheel, the bus was routinely pulling(and descending) 8 and 10% grades. Jim drove like a champ. Thanks to Captain Ted, and our own experience and education, the key is to go SLOW. If that doesn’t work, go SLOWER. We went up and down several hills in first gear. Thank God for jake brakes too. As Jim said later, “That terrain really increases your pucker factor.”

We came to what we thought was our final turn to head a very steep downhill into where would land in the campground. Just as we crested the hill, a guy going the other direction waved us down and said, “You don’t want to take that down there.” Jim asked about the campground and it turned out it wasn’t at that address. Thank goodness our guardian angel showed up when he did. Trust the loving universe, as my friend Connie would say. And she is right.

So we had to back it up into the roadway. At least we were right at the top of the hill. I asked a passing driver and he told me how to find the Outflow Camping. Then he blocked traffic for us, not that there was hardly any, and we got turned around. More hills ahead and we weren’t sure now where we were going. We don’t like to have to turn around or back up if we don’t have to.

We made it to the campground and got to choose between two remaining sites. I don’t know what we would have done if they were full. We got set up and all plugged in and settled in for a few days of riding. Oh and my birthday. I put out my hummingbird feeder and they came right away.

Confluence is at the confluence of the Youghiogheny and Casselman Rivers and Laurel Hill Creek. They call it the Turkeyfoot Region because of how the waters converge. It is a town of about 800 people, very bike oriented with bike racks at all the businesses around the town square.


The trail runs along the Youghiogheny River with the train tracks on the other side of the river.

DSC_9993 DSC_0083 DSC_0045 DSC_0004 DSC_0010 DSC_0001
The Pinkerton Tunnel above was closed and they are soliciting funds to re-open it. Of course. But here’s the deal: for every dollar you donate, they will chip in $17! I am sending them some money. You can too.

Somerset County Rails to Trails
P.O. Box 413
Somerset, PA 15501

or online at:


The tunnel didn’t look that bad inside so hopefully it won’t take much. They had a bypass and we went on to Markleton before we turned back.

We rode about 25-30 miles a day. We don’t get up that early, take our time in the morning and hit the bikes about noon for four hours or so. That includes lunch, either homemade or not. In Confluence, we found the River’s Edge Cafe and it was excellent. The view from our table on the porch.
DSC_9978  DSC_9987  DSC_9988
Sitting on the porch sipping wine, having lunch and traveling around by bike… I told Jim I felt like I was on vacation every day. This (semi) retirement is growing on me. We went to River’s Edge again for my birthday celebration, which was lovely. We sat at the same table by the river and the flowers and toasted our good fortune.

Jim took a rest day from the bike the day after we went to Fallingwater and I rode about 20 miles scoping out the best places to take pictures of the trains and the rolling art they display. I know it’s vandalism but my artistic hat is off to those guys. They work fast, have great use of color and sense of design and are really creative. I found a couple of good spots to have close access to the trains without obstructions, one in Harnedsville and one in Confluence right on the square.

Some examples:
This is the train approaching in Harnedsville. I waved when he went by and he tooted two sharp blasts on the whistle at me. I’m not sure why but I was thrilled.


DSC_0076 DSC_0074

More photos on Flickr.

Next: Fallingwater and The Kindness of Strangers.


15 Years on the Erie Canal…


One of the first songs I ever remember learning:

I had a mule, his name was Sal
15 years on the Erie Canal.
He’s a good ol’ worker, he’s a good ol’ pal.
15 years on the Erie Canal.

We’ve hauled some barges in our day
Filled with lumber, coal and hay.
And every inch of the way we know
From Albany to Buffalo.

Low bridge, everybody down.
Low bridge ’cause we’re going through a town.
And you’ll always know your neighbor, you’ll always know your pal
If you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

At Rocketfest we talked with Andy Platko and he told us about the Ohio-Erie Canal Towpath Trails. They run up into the Cuyahoga National Park and through Cleveland but there is no overnight parking in the park. When we were on our Seville/Westfield Center tour with Franklin, we stopped at the trailhead at Sterling and talked to some folks who told us we could pick up the trail right around there near Canal Fulton.

Jim went into action and found a spot at Clay’s Park, just two miles from the trail. We motored over there and got set up so we could ride for a few days. Our view from the bus, not too bad…

The next day we took off on the bikes for a nice 20+ mile ride. As soon as we had gone about 10 miles and turned around, it started just pouring down rain. There was nothing to do but keep riding, so that’s what we did. By the time we got back to the bus, we were soaked and the bikes were soaked. We were so dirty from the chat on the trail making a stripe up our backs and all over our packs, that we hosed ourselves off in the outdoor shower at the bus, bikes, clothes and all. Good thing we have that shower, it has saved us a lot of black tank fill-up. We used it all the time at Marni and Eric’s.

The next day rain was also called for but not as likely. We took off in the other direction and after our picnic lunch, it started to rain a little, exactly like the day before. You think, “Oh, this won’t be too bad.” Next thing you know, you are inundated. We headed back. I don’t mind getting wet all that much, but two days in a row was a bit of a stretch. We made it back to the bus and the weather was beautiful the whole rest of the day. Go figure.

The towpath ran between the canal and the Tuscarawas River so we got to see some of both. The remains of the locks at Canal Fulton and Clinton were really interesting and made you feel like you were back there in time with the mules hauling the barges. .


The remaining canal boat, the St. Helena, was at Canal Fulton but out of the water. The canals were really narrow, probably dug with not much clearance on each side. No margin for error.

Tusawara River and the Ohio-Erie Canal.

DSC_9960 DSC_9964

The sunflowers, Joe Pye Weed, rudbeckia, echinacia, liatris and other flowers made for a  glorious mid-August display.
DSC_9957 DSC_9939 DSC_9954
Thanks to Andy Platko and Franklin and the people at the trailhead for the suggestions. We have other towpaths on our radar now.


17th Annual Rocketfest!


As host Franklin Graf says, “Rocketfest is not a car show; it’s a picnic and get-together.” Ever since I have been NAOC Editor, I have heard great stories about this legendary one-day event in Westfield Center, Ohio. This was the year to attend and check it out.

Franklin arranged great parking for the bus, right across the street from the event, which is held on the property of his shop. We were in a private, shady spot that used to be the parking for the ball fields. It was nice and level too. He had cleared it with the Police Chief so we headed over on Friday.


We ended up getting kicked out a day early because somebody called to complain that the bus was parked on public property, even though we had already gotten permission. That turned out to be OK though, since we needed that extra day to squeeze into the state park in Pennsylvania where spots are first come, first served. More on that later.

The show is always on the second Saturday of August and we had fine weather. What is so famous about Rocketfest? Besides celebrating the Rocket engine made by Oldsmobile from 1949-1959 (in any make of car), the food was always described as fabulous. My first question when investigating an event, “Is there food involved?” was answered with a resounding YES. So. Much. Food. And so good too. Franklin and his well-oiled helpers grilled hamburgers, hot dogs and Italian sausage with all the trimmings. There was Italian tomato salad, corn casserole, a delightful bleu cheese and pecan salad, green bean casserole, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, pasta salad, baked beans, ham and asparagus wraps, fried chicken, shrimp; the list goes on and on. And that doesn’t even include the desserts!

My plate. And yes, I ate it all.

We ate at noon and at 3:00 PM there was a parade around Westfield Center, a very quiet and well kept town dominated by what Franklin called The Company, Westfield Insurance. There is no real business district, just the Company buildings, the Westfield Inn and the civic building.

The Oldsmobiles and Rocket-engine powered other brands were out in force. There were probably 50 cars at this one day, not very publicized picnic.

My goofy friend and NAOC Membership Manager Paul, whose 1962 Starfire turned over 100,000 miles on the way to the show. It was good to see him again.
DSC_9705 DSC_9760

There were five very rare fastbacks there too.
 DSC_9789 DSC_9842

Franklin’s self created panel wagon. Olds didn’t make one, but he did!


And Tony won Franklin’s Pick with his Rocket engine powered 1929 Ford Model A.


What a great day it was! See more photos here, and look for an article with lots more pictures in an upcoming issue of Runabouts to Rockets. Many thanks to Franklin for his hospitality and the local tour he gave us the next day, which helped us zero in on the Ohio-Erie Canal Towpath Trails. Andy Platko had mentioned them at the show but overnight parking wasn’t allowed in the Cuyahoga National Park.  We zeroed in on some that were a little further from Cleveland and some folks we met at a trailhead with Frank during our tour helped us pick our next stop. Since Rocketfest was our last planned destination, we decided to check them out.