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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Escape from the Dread Clorox Bottle - a journey into the mountains of Virginia

After a delightful Friday evening with friends, good food and a charming amateur theater production, TheQueen awoke to the news that the painter was coming to prep the house with big bottles of Clorox! 

Now, TheQueen is deathly sensitive to chlorine, so there was nothing for it but to get out of dodge. We decided to head west to the mountains, taking a favorite route down country roads. At Frederick Hall we had lunch at a little spot we'd passed dozens of time without ever having the time to stop. 

It came complete with two porch cats, curious and friendly.

The food was nice, but there was only one poor waitress who had to tend all the guests while getting food from a basement kitchen.

We wound our way over Afton Mountain and took 81 south to Troutville where we stopped at a cute little shop, The Apple Barn II,  that sold several lines of collectable cottages, including The Cat's Meow.

All along the way we were paralleled by the Appalachian Trail and once we'd stopped in Troutville we decided to find the trail and hike it for a little while.

I haven't walked along this trail since I hitch hiked out to Warrenton from D.C., the summer of 1971 with a cute French boyfriend. Oh my that was a long time ago. Pre-ThePrinceConsort!

Most of the trail was through the forest, with a cool green canopy and delicious little wooden bridges crossing stony creeks.

But there were some open fields to climb up and hike down.

And even a railroad track to cross - two different modes of transportation in high contrast.

The flora was lavish - lots of late summer blossoms - here is crownbeard and ironweed - neither of which tempt the cattle - who were, happily - in different fields that day. 

 The vistas were equally spectacular - Virginia at its finest on an August afternoon. 

One unusual sight were these two trees - different species - but growing together. I thought they looked like they were kissing.

We decided to spend the night in Natural Bridge - no - not at the lodge - though it looked very pretty but also very full. Just a little roadside motel south of Lexington. But on the way we stopped in Buchanan - where we discovered this treat: A suspension foot bridge!

 Here are two views from the bridge - I particularly loved the Gothic molding on the supports. And at the Old Town Canoe livery I sat in one of the old town kayaks and it felt like a perfect fit. I am now seriously thinking about a birthday present. 

We ate dinner in Lexington - but at nigh on to 9 o'clock and as rumpled travelers we didn't want to stop at some place fancy. Instead, we were the last customers at a little hamburger joint called Pure Eats. They get a 4.5 from Urban Spoon and a 5+ from this hungry gal. They serve local beef and beer, and simply decadent french fries.

Sunday morning was cloudy and cool up in the mountains and we drove north on 11 along the Blue Ridge Parkway. There were More Vistas, More Wildflowers ....


and one darling little mountain cabin farmstead museum.

Complete with it's own ruminant ranger. 

And so - that is how TheQueen escaped the Dread Clorox Bottle. When I got back to TheCastle it looked so white it hardly needed to be painted. ThePrince has done some brutal landscaping out front so the painter could get his ladders set up. There will be a shocking photo of TheCastle in TheNude - after the gleaming white paint has been spread. This place is getting so much work done on it it hardly feels like my house any more - but fear not. I shall adjust to the clean and the beauty and the cool.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's Reunion Time Again

In fact, it's half way through TheReunion - or even 2/3 of the way through if you count the blissful Friday of prep. And while 75% of that Friday was exactly like every preReunion Friday for the past 20 years, the 25% that was new was almost the most fun of all.

We always book a manicure and pedicure for early on that Friday but somehow I screwed up my scheduling so while BH had her toes pampered I swiftly dashed through the store picking up paper products. That's one of my contributions to TheReunion. The other is footing the bill for mailing out invitations. In return? I don't cook a thing. There is always more than enough food (though I do worry about not having enough, that particular anxiety is all about TheQueen's self doubt, not about reality)

Photo: Iunch in CarytownNew this year was a convenient appointment I could schedule in Richmond so that BH and I could have lunch in Carytown.

We dined al fresco because while the food at CanCan is simply beyond delicious - it's a noisy restaurant. Besides, inside the music was piped, outside we were entertained with the real thing.

In addition to dining, there was luxury grocery shopping - one more thing to make TheReunion weekend special.

This has been a particularly cranky summer for TheQueen but Saturday morning there was no anxiety about anything. There was some swift and efficient house cleaning since one never knows if there will be After-Reunion guests. There were not - this year - but that only made coming home at the end of the day particularly nice - a squeaky clean house just for the two of us.

There were already cousins in the church yard when ThePrince and I arrived and we were soon spreading out food and photos to share with all. The oldest among us are a group of first and second and third cousins descended from this union:
J T and Hannah Elizabeth Hoskins
The Cousins
But there are plenty more cousins to go around. Cousins who are even from different Hoskins lines. This year we were blessed with a new Hannah!

And lots of pretty teenage girls to make the Granddaddies smile.

And what looks to me like some hungry cousins wondering when we'll sing our traditional hymn and ask the blessing. 

The food really does surpass expectations. My question here is - why is it the slimmest slightest cousins are the ones that bring platters full of butter-filled deliciousness? I never saw so many ways to use chocolate and there were spiced peaches, pulled mint candies, and banana puddings as well. Oh yes. and Fried Chicken.

This year we didn't have any of the Warner line with us nor were either of the Eastern Shore Eubanks able to come. The Hill line has sadly died out, though Cousin Thomas will live forever in my heart because he welcomed me so warmly at my first Hoskins Reunion. This was the first time in ages that Cousin Elizabeth C couldn't be with us and I felt the loss. But those of us who could come made everything feel warm, welcoming and joy filled.

And once we were replete with deliciousness, there were photographs to be taken in the sanctuary of the old family church and songs to be sung by the musically inclined.

PhotoSo, you'd think we were ready to go home by then, right? Wrong. Groups paired off, drifting in clumps, or headed to family homes. We spent our late afternoon with the H's at Hillsborough. One of these days I'm actually going swimming there. Though I took my suit, I kept getting waylaid by fascinating conversations with cousins. 


And so, Saturday closed softly with a quiet green drive home through King & Queen and Essex Counties. Today, some of us will drive down to Mathews to visit with More Cousins Some More because, there can never be enough cousins.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

SHE LIVES! and She's Posting. And there WILL be knitting soon.

Summer always looks so long and carefree, stretching out across the calendar when you hang your new one in January. Alas, when it actually gets here it can zip by in a twinkling, leaving you sitting by the curb in September wondering "What happened?"

We're all busier than a one armed paper hanger at the library in June, July and August. And we had a 4th of July picnic earlier in the month followed immediately by construction on the house. And there has been DRAMA in my life - and TheQueen does not like DRAMA. Even without all the extraneous stuff, it takes a concerted effort on my part to participate in summer as well as to serve the needs of all those others seeking summer enjoyment.  Yesterday I made that effort and what a glorious day it was.

Somewhere on the Internets I saw a photo of a bike, parked along a country road, and I had a lust to go bike riding.  Himself and I have talked, now and then, about biking down one of the old railroad beds that have been turned into bike trails. A little research turned up a Rails to Trails park within an easy drive from home.

High Bridge Trail State Park.

Not owning a bike didn't deter me a whit. I found a wonderful bike rental right in Farmville beside one of the trail entrances.

High Bridge Rails and Trails Bike Rental
The fact that it was still under construction didn't keep the owner from renting us very VERY smooth coaster bikes. They're 3G Beach Cruiser Bicycles and my goodness what delicious bikes to ride. Himself hadn't ridden a bike in a decade and though I use the stationary bikes at the gym - they are just that. stationary. You don't need balance to ride a stationary bike. So we were both a little nervous about riding away from the rental shop, especially on such brand spanking new bikes, for fear we'd topple over. But the adage holds true - once you learn to ride a bike you never forget. Off we pedaled onto the white gravel path.

We'd had a heavy rain the day before and the sky had that washed clean look to it - fresh, cool breezes wafted scents of pine, greenery, moist earth all about us.

The star attraction of this 31 mile trail is the former railroad bridge over the Appomattox River. It's half a mile long and I believe, 120 feet high.

This is the 4th bridge to link Farmville to Prince Edward county. The Civil War era bridge was built on brick pilings and had a double deck - with the train on top and a wagon road below. You can still see some of the brick pilings.

We could hear the river rushing as we got closer to it - and then suddenly there it was, sparkling over some rocks.

There didn't seem to be any other rapids along the river so I wonder if these are artificial ones, created by the rubble of previous structures. Mostly the river was a smooth brown snake weaving through the green treetops.

There are many places where the old railroad crossed highways and country roads so you can pretty much ride the trail in 4 mile chunks. We went about 8 miles from Farmville to Rice - which is a pretty little railroad town of about 30 19th century houses

and a brick church

We took our time. We stopped often to have a snack or sip some water. We peered over the bridge for a bird's eye view of the Virginia countryside. And we had some quiet time of just being where we were, pedaling easily, in no hurry, just soaking up the feeling of summertime and peace, unscheduled, un-driven, and un-organized.

The quiet ride back gave us many treasures, not the least of which was riding up on these two babies, out for an afternoon browse.

It was a perfect afternoon. Just what you dream of having on a golden sunshine summer day.