West Virginia Autumnal Eye Candy

The Mechanic has been busy for months rebuilding his vintage (if 1987 is vintage, lol) truck, all leading up to our West Virginia road trip last week. We spent a relaxing (and chilly) four nights/five days exploring south-eastern West Virginia, an area of the state neither of us had ever visited. And that brief trip was enough to convince me that we need to go back – we barely scratched the surface of all the things there were to see and do!

road sign saying "Welcome to West Virignia, Wild and Wonderful"

Welcome to West Virginia

Lewisburg

The first night we spent in a hotel in downtown historic Lewisburg. Our room overlooked an old house and some lovely trees, and we were walking distance to a recommended hotel‘s bar with absolutely delicious and very inventive cocktails.

From Lewisburg, we stopped in at Lost World Caverns and were amazed at the large open cave with stunning cave features. I just love caves, and always try to imagine the first people to discover the dark holes armed only with candles. It was the perfect stop on the one rainy day we encountered.

Fayetteville

We then spent two nights in a “legacy” cabin in Babcock State Park, just outside of Fayetteville. The legacy cabins were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corp.. Heated only with the fireplace, and complete with a complimentary mouse visit in the middle of the night, this was absolutely my favorite place that we stayed. I wish we’d had more time to just hang out at the cabin, so maybe next time. The biggest photographic draw is the refurbished mill, and although I hate to take *the same* photos as everyone else, I couldn’t help it. It was far too picturesque not to!

 

While in the area, we visited the main attraction, the New River Gorge Bridge. Completed in 1977, this bridge is the longest steel span in the western hemisphere and the third highest in the United States. It’s -mind-boggling to think about – and since we drove over it, and the original (ish) route it replaced, I can see how it was a welcome feat of engineering for the region.

New River Gorge Bridge, seen from the river

Beartown State Park

Admittedly just about everything we did on this trip exceeded our expectations, but probably our visit to Beartown State Park blew us away. The description on the website, and what I’m about to tell you, is a complete understatement about how stunning this park is. A series of boardwalks leads you around these massive, moss-covered rock formations on top of a mountain that defy proper descriptive words. Even photos can’t show how amazing this park is. Here’s a few of the best: Seneca Rocks

After a somewhat lackluster and chilly night of camping at Seneca Shadows (too close to our neighbors AND the main road below us), we spent our last morning at Seneca Rocks, in the Monongahela National Forest. This is another one where the online description fails to impress how imposing and incredible this rock formation is. I think we took a million of the same photo of it from every angle! Then we hiked up to the observation platform – it was a beautiful yet steep climb, worth the view, but only when we were having lunch at the pizza place below did we realize how high up we’d been. My legs still feel it.

We were way up *there*?!?

There’s so much more tell about this trip but I promised you eye candy, and here’s more of West Virginia, in all it’s autumnal glory:

A Weekend Five Years in the Making

The Mechanic and I just celebrated our five year wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe we’ve been married that long, and yet it seems like we’ve always been together. Is that how marriage works?!

We haven’t done much to celebrate in the last few years since they’ve seemed a bit anti-climatic. I was in New York last year with a friend, if that is any indication of our attentiveness. But five years seemed like a big deal so we made some plans.

First up, we splurged on a fancy dinner at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw, a plant-based restaurant in Washington, DC. It’s been on my list for a while but due to it price and exclusivity (Friday and Saturday night seatings only, wine pairings an extra $60 per person), we hadn’t been. But it turned out to be the perfect anniversary dinner.

Violet Moon cocktail and an empty first course dish – as the dining excitement begins!

Although we passed on the wine pairing, we did order cocktails. My Violet Moon appeared more gray than violet, but the vodka, kombucha, creme de Violette, and Freixenet Blanc de Blanc combo could possibly be my most favorite cocktail ever. I had two – just to test the consistency, of course! I can’t even begin to describe the food, it was so amazing. So many wild and different flavors in one mouthful! The Mechanic and I, not being foodies, credited our years of vegan Green Chef meals with introducing us to the possibilities of flavorful, exotic, and adventurous dining – if it hadn’t, this meal might have been a great shock! I didn’t take pictures of all seven courses but I did take a few of the more picturesque ones.

One of seven delicious courses at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw

Also, I wore my new Vogue 9091  linen culottes and the Named Clothing Inari Tee Dress, which I cropped into a top. I love this combination so much!!! Expect to see me in it alot – and sorry for the bathroom photo….

We balanced the fancy experience at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw the following day with a road trip to Shepherdstown, WV, where we had gotten married five year previously. We rented a (ginormous) pick up, and The Mechanic managed to nicely arrange our bicycles in the back so we could take them with us. Once in Shepherdstown, we started with a casual lunch at our favorite place, the Blue Moon Cafe. The food is always good, with plenty of vegetarian options, but the highlight is the outdoor seating with a small stream rushing through it. We love this place so much that we made it part of our unofficial wedding reception (we had a lunchtime wedding and reception, so everyone who stayed joined us at the Blue Moon for dinner that evening). We continued our wedding anniversary tour with a stop at the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery, where we had ordered our wedding cake. We purchased a slice of cake that was almost identical to ours – this was almond cake (instead of the lemon we had five years ago), with a raspberry filling and buttercream frosting. Just as delicious as we remembered!

Biking has always been a large part of our memories of Shepherdstown – we first encountered the town when we signed up for the CASA River Ride seven years ago. We also used it as our starting point for a bike camping trip down the C & O Canal that same year. We’ve returned over and over, since it is a perfect day trip destination. Luckily the weather this year was dry enough for us to squeeze in another bike ride down the canal tow path. It was so lovely and just perfect, and we agreed we need to do more of *that* sort of biking – adventure travel biking, casual, gravel roads, nature, trees, etc.

Our last anniversary-related stop was at the Bavarian Inn, where our wedding had taken place. We were one of the first weddings held overlooking the infinity pool, and there had been some question as to whether or not it would be ready for us – but it was, and provided a lovely backdrop of just nature and the Potomac River. We visited a few times since then, but not for a few years, so we were completely surprised at the remodeling they had done when they added Bavarian Brothers Brewery to the site last year. Walls were changed, decor was modernized, fixtures were new, the bar was larger, and there was an entire new dining area where our reception patio space had been. Wow! It looks amazing! We had a flight and some fondue, then took home a growler – which I had to bike back to our rental truck, since we’d gone there on our bikes. What’s more bike-y than beer and cupcakes on a bike?!

 

Part of my wedding reminiscences included pulling out my wedding skirt, which I made from my wedding dress. It’s a bit too small for me now <ahem> but I would still love to have a reason to wear it somewhere. Someone, invite me to a garden party!

So many changes since 2014!

Who knows how many changes there will be in another five years!!! We have enough to keep ourselves busy until then, so check in with me in 2024!

Travel March19: Out in the West Texas Town of El Paso

The Mechanic and I just spent a week in El Paso, Texas. I can’t ever say it without thinking of the Marty Robbins song – am I the only one?! I know it seems like a random vacation spot but my brother and sister-in-law have lived there for 13 years, and The Mechanic’s brother-in-law was just stationed there last summer. So it presented a perfect opportunity to visit them both as well as introduce them to each other. I’m all for our siblings getting along!

We had a whirlwind tour of both the city and the parks outside of it. Our first stop was BeerFest, hosted by local brewery DeadBeach Brewery, complete with local artists and food trucks. It was a perfect intro to the city. We had the opportunity to ride the “new” streetcars, too. New as in – recently reintroduced. They are the original streetcars that ran from the 1950s to 1974, then were stored near the airport. In 2012, the city decided to resurrect them, and they officially launched last November – so we were among the early users. We rode the whole loop and greatly enjoyed our tour of the city this way. (There are a few things I’d like to see improved, including better stop signage, but hopefully as more locals use them, they will campaign for those things themselves.) Our whirlwind tour of the city included the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) campus, local restaurants and the zoo. The El Paso Zoo is small but well done, with a new section being created now. For such a small zoo, it seems to be very heavily involved in saving endangered species regionally as well as around the world. It must keep their personnel busy – but thank you! I hope we don’t lose much more wildlife because of human activities than we already have.

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We also did a day trip to White Sands National Monument, outside Las Cruces, New Mexico, and camped overnight at Davis Mountains State Park, in Fort Davis, Texas.

I’m completely fascinated by White Sands – in the right spot, all you can see is white gypsum sand. We took our shoes off, and despite the glare of the sun, the sand was cool and damp in some areas.

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Camping at Davis Mountains State Park was colder than we had anticipated but still fun, with amazing views from the mountain top. We stopped at the Fort Davis National Historic Site on our way out, rounding out a brief history of the Buffalo Soldiers, some of whom were stationed there in the 1870s. We also saw a Buffalo Soldiers memorial in the El Paso Cemetery.

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Visiting our siblings was of course the highlight of the trip, but there is plenty to do in the city as well as the area, so we are looking forward to a return trip someday. Is your family as spread out as ours are?

 

Thankful for Ozark Adventures

The Mechanic and I spent Thanksgiving in the Ozarks, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to be precise. This was my third trip to NW Arkansas, the first time being right before Christmas five years ago. This time, we met up with The Mechanic’s siblings, the very same ones we’d just been to Disney World with, to spend the holiday with their father, who lives just north of the Arkansas border, in Missouri. We all congregated in a lake house on the edge of Beaver Lake.

On this trip, I was thankful for:

Thanksgiving lunch at local favorite, Myrtie May’s Cafe.

Kayaking on Beaver Lake

Meeting the Eureka Springs Working Bunnies

The beautiful rocky landscape of NW Arkansas

A return trip to Hammontree’s for grilled cheese and gourmet veggie dogs

 

And of course, spending time with The Mechanic’s family.

It’s hard to believe we are already into December, and everyone’s thoughts have turned to the holidays. Nevertheless, I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving, full of family and good food, in every and all variation of both.

 

Working My Way Back to You, Bike

It’s been three and a half weeks since I had major surgery. In that time I’ve watched the trees from our bedroom windows, played with our rabbits, read alot, gotten a tattoo, done a bit of sewing, and eaten way more comfort food than planned (whoops). I’d say it’s been relaxing but it hasn’t been, really. There’s still some pain and I am exhausted all the time. The days I’ve managed 5,000 steps have wiped me out so when I’m finally allowed to start biking again, I might not be biking very far. But I’m working my way back to you, Fauntleroy – we can’t miss all the lovely spring biking weather!

Gaston, Quinn and Sullivan (l to r)

Inspirational necklace made by a friend many years ago.

I’ll be ready for that day though, because one of the things I made is a lightweight coat. This Simplicity 8055 was a super easy pattern but I decided to make it slightly more complicated by lengthening the sleeves, flat lining all the pieces, adding some dimensional stitches to the cuffs, and making covered buttons. Playing around with my Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 965q stitches was a lot of fun and I plan on doing this again on other projects.

Lately, Spring has sprung around our place so my daily walks have resulted in many, many photos of flowers.

I’m returning to work with some trepidation, knowing that I need a nap every afternoon. But I need to get back to my normal routine, or at least as close as I can. I guess I have to accept that it will be slow going, but I’m not a patient person, so we’ll see how it goes.

Mindful, Perhaps Green, Shopping

Thanksgiving now over, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas! My parents, brother, sister-in-law, aunt and possibly cousin are visiting us this year, to see our new home and bunnies. I am so excited to celebrate with the whole family this year, and I’m already making a list of things that need to be done – enough Christmas stockings for everyone, where and/or what do we eat, what fun post-Christmas things can we do…?

This year we all managed to agree to *not* buy each other Christmas presents. It’s something we discuss every year, but this year, we are committed. None of us needs anything, and besides, it’s more about being together. Since they are all flying here, we are gifting them an overnight stay in the Shenandoah Valley, which will be more fun in the long run. If nothing else, we’ll roll our eyes for years over the fact that any restaurant we go to there won’t be prepared for four vegetarians! (There is one small caveat – we are each getting each other one $5 stocking stuffer, something edible, handmade or eco-friendly.)

On the heels of this agreement came a report that talks about the high environmental cost of delivery. In “The Environmental Cost of Free 2-Day Delivery,” published on Vox on November 17, the authors of a study done at the University of California Davis tell us that the emissions from delivery trucks are worse than the emissions of individual cars driving around to malls and stores to buy things. The big challenge is 2-day shipping – that rush to have things immediately is killing our environment. Erk. One of the ways I manage to be car-free is to have as much delivered as possible. Josué Velázquez, director of the MIT Sustainable Logistics Department, says in a related article on Huffington Post that getting companies to add buttons sharing the impact of free 2-day shipping might inspire consumers to opt for slower delivery options. Knowing that choosing 4-5 day delivery will only kill 10 trees, compared to killing 3,000 for 2-day delivery would work for me! In fact, it already has.

I would hate to lose these trees, so I will think differently the next time I place an order.

Part of my plans for the holidays involve sewing projects that require fabrics and patterns I can’t buy locally, on my bike or otherwise. So now I really need to think about it – how much can I order from one place? I should order it all now, so that I can pick the slowest delivery option available, and not need it in a rush. And while I’m thinking about that, I need to be mindful of everything else we need this month, and moving forward. How to we continue to reduce our impact? Do we wean ourselves off Amazon? <gasp!> I think this means more trips to NYC to stock up for my sewing projects!

Started my McCalls 7667 coat, using corduroy as the “muslin” to test the fit. I still need to order lining and interlining.

If the thought of giving up free 2-day delivery right before the holidays stresses you out a bit, here are a few positive, encouraging stories about how the fashion world is trying to help the environment.

Swedish Plant Burns H&M Rags Instead of Coal, on The Business of Fashion website

How C&A Created the World’s First Cradle to Cradle T-Shirt, on Greenbiz.com

So Much to Be Thankful For

Hard to believe it’s almost Thanksgiving but it is! This will be the first year The Mechanic and I spend in our new home, so it is an extra special year. We don’t have much planned, other than trying to cross off things from our lengthy New Home list. We did order a vegan meal from Whole Foods and we found a bottle of Straffe Hendrik Quadruple Ale, a favorite from our honeymoon visit to Bruges. Something special for a special first holiday.

Yum, Belgian beer!

We have so much to be thankful for this year: new house and new bunnies being top of the list. I’m thankful that the home buying process and subsequent move went as smoothly as they did, and I’m thankful that incorporating two new bunnies into our little family went smoothly as well. Gaston, Sullivan and Quinn are all happily enjoying each other’s company as well as their pen and free space. Our friends and families have been so excited for us, and I’m thankful as always for them. I’m also thankful, and somewhat surprised, that for the first time in my adult life, I feel connected to a community. It’s a nice feeling, belonging, and knowing neighbors. I’m thankful Arlington has turned out to be such a wonderful place to live. I’m thankful for the support of my social media “family” as well. I’ve learned so many new things and been exposed to a wider world than I would experience on my own, and I have all of you to thank for that. It’s wonderful, getting to connect virtually with people of similar hobbies, tastes and values.

Seasonal mini quilt, made by my mother. I’m so glad I finally have a good place to display it!

Most importantly, I’m thankful that I found The Mechanic. (I’m sure he’d say the same about me!) Having a partner in crime, mechanic, bike expert, newly converted bunny enthusiast dad and equally reluctant cook is amazing. And I’m so thankful. So is my bike.Whatever you do this week, I hope your Thanksgiving is full of love and laughter, and maybe some biking or sewing, and definitely some pumpkin…

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Nothing But Flowers

Life has been a bit crazy and a lot boring from too much going on – and by boring, I mean, work work work work work. No biking and no sewing. I haven’t even gotten the sewing space set up yet! Although that is partially because I spent most of Sunday binge watching Netflix series “Grace and Frankie.” It’s a fun show that packs a serious emotional punch at the same time. A highly scientific Facebook survey of my friends showed that I am not the only one my age who likes this show about retired couples. Everyone has given it thumbs up.

Binge watching aside, I apparently needed time away from everything. The Mechanic was out of town for the weekend, so it was just Gaston and I puttering around the apartment. I did get most of my to-do list done, so it wasn’t totally wasted, but still, no biking and no sewing. So instead of photos of a fun bike ride or my latest sewing project, all I have for you is flowers. But you know what? Sometimes I think we all need a little more beauty in our lives.

We have had a ton of rain lately (although that is fairly normal for summers here, it somehow seems like more than our fair share), and with that we get mushrooms popping up on the lawns everywhere. I love the ones that create fairy rings, or almost rings. Don’t they seem magical? My favorite, however, is this spot of sidewalk where annually some zinnia pushes through the cement and makes it’s own statement. It’s like one of those motivational posters, don’t you think?

Nevertheless, it persisted

Surprises in Northeastern Oregon

I missed a regular blog post earlier this week because The Mechanic and I were in Northeastern Oregon on a family trip. My dad’s side of the family gathered to say goodbye to my grandparents with a celebration of life and scattering of their ashes. I hadn’t been there in seven years, for my grandfather’s 90th birthday, and enjoyed exploring with fresh eyes.

Thirty-five years ago, my dad’s dad and his second wife moved to Lostine, Oregon, a small town in Wallowa County, Oregon. Their property, titled Big Foot Ranch (no idea why), is tucked in a narrow valley between Lostine and Enterprise. I was ten when they moved, and got to travel with them in my great-grandmother’s fifth wheel trailer – a huge adventure to me. Every summer thereafter we drove up to visit them. I rode their horse, swam in the irrigation ditch, and learned to drive on a Model A Ford pickup and an old John Deere tractor. (There goes my city creds – The Mechanic now has plenty of ammo to call me a country girl!)

Enterprise, in the far northeast corner of Oregon

To get there, we flew into Boise, the closest airport, and after meeting up with my brother and sister-in-law (who flew in from Texas), drove four hours to Enterprise. After being greeted by the beef industry in the Boise airport, we joked about what the cattle-raising locals would think when four  vegetarians rolled into town.My grandparents’ property is so lovely, with the rushing river and fields on either side. Marching up the hillside through the weeds is still the same, returning with socks and shoe laces full of burrs. This is my kind of wilderness! Also, the low humidity was sooo refreshing, despite the high temperatures.

I have changed in the seven years (!!!) since I’d been to my grandparents’ – then I was single, newly moved from Manhattan to Washington, DC, and unhappy with my job. Wanting to show The Mechanic all the things my brother and I grew up doing in Oregon made everything new. The biggest surprise was how bike-y the area is – whaat? Bike lanes through the middle of Enterprise?! And Joseph, OR, not only had bike lanes, but bike racks shaped like bikes, and one store had a large “Bike Friendly” sign out front, notifying all that not only were there bike racks, but drinking fountains, public restrooms and package shipping. I’ve never even seen this on stores here in the DC metro area! The Mechanic and I chatted with a woman who had been biking 65 miles into Enterprise, to get to Terminal Gravity Brewing. She said that for the most part, cars were pretty respectful of her and kept their distance, because not all the roads have decent shoulders and space to bike. I had heard that the area was trying hard to promote cycle tourism, and now I believe it.

Another surprise was just how much we loved the town of Joseph. It’s Main Street is maybe 5 blocks long, but it packs a ton of cute into those blocks. Famous for the bronze foundry, Joseph has a huge arts scene. Every corner had artwork in brilliant floral beds, every other store was something related to the arts (a wonderful quilt store too!), not to mention the artisan chocolate shop, the bistros and restaurants, and the murals. If you are looking for a relaxing, small town getaway with tons to do and see, this is your destination.

Wallowa Lake was also a surprise – having been in the area for so many years, I don’t know why we never hung out at the lake. My parents, brother, sister-in-law, The Mechanic and I ended up spending a very, very relaxing afternoon reading in the park by the lake. We had gone up to the top of Mt. Howard on the Wallowa Lake Tramway to admire the mountain views, and had planned on renting kayaks. Instead, we enjoyed the beautiful weather and gorgeous scenery around us. Ah….

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All around are remembrances of the Nez Perce tribe, native to the Wallowa area. As obsessed with Native Americans as I was as a child, I don’t remember exploring any of their history while visiting my grandparents. So I was pleased to be able to see a small bit of their history at the Old Chief Joseph Gravesite and Joseph Canyon from the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Viewpoint.

It seems like we packed a lot into a short trip; this doesn’t even include our evening at Terminal Gravity (their grassy front lawn will make you stay far longer than you planned!) and the day we spent with extended family and friends remembering my grandparents. I will leave you with more photos of the area. It is just so beautiful that photos don’t do it justice. I’m glad I got to visit one last time and have these images to share with you.

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But now we are home and I’m back to embrace my kind of outdoorsy –

ButIt seeWe packed a lot of scenery intoTheSave

Tulips and Bicycles in Philly

A friend and I spent a freezing cold Saturday in Philadelphia, PA, admiring all types of plants in wild, brilliant blooms, at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The theme was “Holland: Flowering the World,” and my hopes for tulips and bicycles were happily achieved – so many of the display gardens featured bicycles in some way or another. Tulips, my favorite flowers, were present everywhere. I have never been to the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s 188-year-old flower show, but my gardening friend and I were eager to go, and let Reston Limo to do the driving. Taking a day trip in a motorcoach from the Vienna Metro Station to the Convention Center in Philly was the perfect way to spend time with flowers, and each other (see, who needs a car?). I was expecting an exhibit hall of floral landscapes and scenes, but in fact, the show is divided up into several sections. We started with the landscapes, worked our way through the educational displays (where sustainability was on gorgeous display), then studied some of the art displays before walking through the plant competition on our way to the market place, then checked out the complimentary wine and spirits tasting. There was so much to see that we didn’t get to see it all! We also ran through the Reading Terminal Market, which was across the street, and a quick peek into The Fabric Workshop and Museum. Whew! So much to do in a day!

I loved the creative landscapes:

And I loved that so many of the landscapes included bicycles and bike parts: There was definite emphasis on how bicycles are embraced by the Dutch, as well as a sustainable form of transportation. Something I wasn’t expecting was all the cool artistic flower displays, which were really amazing:

I was inspired by all the displays about sustainability and green space, and its importance in cities, and hope that visitors had a chance to really read some of the signs and information.

It was a shame that the weather was so cold, because I had made a long-promised dress for my friend, and it was too cold for her to wear it. I guess she’ll will have to wait until the weather really is spring-like to wear her floral print spring dress! But isn’t it cute?

McCalls 6520 with modified sleeve – the perfect flower show dress, if it had been warmer!

It was so much fun getting to indulge in flowers, friendship and, as always, bicycles, for a day. I think we will add this to our annual “things to do” list! To see more and better photos of the flowers, and shots without the crowds, check out the article in the Washington Post.