To The Summit

This month the missus and I took a multi-day trip to the mountains of North Carolina visiting Blowing Rock and the summit of Grandfather Mountain. Having been raised near the Appalachians, being able to visit some of the higher points in this mountain chain was akin to a spiritual experience for me. We were fortunate that the weather was as near to perfect as could be with highs in the upper 70s accompanied by clear skies and low humidity.

I’ve included several photographs from our trip that in no way due the views justice. Frankly, the only way to truly appreciate the grandeur and the beauty of these mountains is to actually be there.

‘Til next time.

Pilgrimage of a Synthesizer Lover

This week, I had the privilege of visiting the Moog store and factory in Asheville, NC. The missus and I were vacationing in western NC and I was hoping I could at least stop by the store and had hopes that they gave factory tours. Sure enough, after a brief web search, I found that Moog does indeed give free tours to the public.

I first heard a Moog way back in 1984-85 after checking out a vinyl record of Wendy Carlos’ “Switched on Bach” from the elementary school library. That record opened my ears, eyes and mind to the technological wonder of synthesizers and has kept me a fan and player of them ever since. So for me to be able to visit the factory where Moog synthesizers are made is almost like a Christian making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

It was interesting that in addition to fellow musicians, there were families with young children visiting the Moog factory. It’s good to see that the love of Moog and the synthesizer heritage is being passed down to the younger generation. The staff at Moog are very friendly and open to answering any questions. I was able play around on a Moog Voyager and Little Phatty Stage II on the showroom floor where every item Moog Music, Inc. manufactures is setup to be played.

They even allow pictures to be taken of the factory floor and goings-on which I found to be a bit surprising. But after thinking about it, no one can do what Moog does, no other synth sounds like a Moog, so they likely have nothing to worry about from us tourists taking a few snapshots.

Many thanks to store manager Jim Debardi for showing us around and for answering everyone’s questions.

Here are a few of the photos I took during my visit:

Vacation Withdrawal

Rosemont ManorBack to the “real” world tomorrow. Finishing up a quite relaxing vacation this past week and am now experiencing the typical vacation withdrawal. Why does time off from work seem to pass by so quickly?

The missus and I took a road trip to Virginia stopping one night in Luray at The Mimslyn Inn, having breakfast at the Gathering Grounds and visiting Luray Caverns. It’s been probably 20+ years since I last saw the caverns as a kid and it was awe inspiring seeing the underground formations as an adult. If you’ve not been, make plans to go. It’s definitely worth the trip.

The Mimslyn Inn
We then headed north to wine country and spent a few days in Berryville (known for being featured in a Wendy’s restaurant commercial, but having no Wendy’s in town). The historic¬†downtown area is quaint and the locals are quite friendly and welcoming. We lodged at Rosemont Manor enjoying delicious breakfasts, a picnic lunch in the meadow of their 60+ acres and visited Delaplane Cellars and Veramar Vineyard among other things.

At one point, we got to watch a swarm of honeybees take up residence in one of the Rosemont Manor’s columns. According to a staff member, carpenter bees had made a hole there last year and the honeybees found it inviting. Very interesting to watch…from a distance.

If you’ve never been to the Shenadoah Valley of Virginia, you don’t know what you’re missing, especially this time of year. The land is absolutely gorgeous with mountains close enough it’s as though you can reach out and touch them.

I think the missus and I may move back there someday. We certainly do keep going back for annual visits. It’s where we were born and raised. It’s in our blood, in our bones. It’s home.

Luray Caverns

Rosemont Manor DrivewayHoneybee Swarm

A Surprising Character Study

Thelma's Chicken and WafflesThe missus and I took a quick 2 night trip last week and visited some old stomping grounds we’d not been to in over 12 years: Blacksburg and Roanoke, Virginia. Although we lived in that area only about a year and a half, it was nice to see that a lot of things have remained the same way that we remember them. For instance, the restaurant where we had our wedding rehearsal dinner, Zeppoli’s, is still in Blacksburg and looks the same way now as it did then. Our old apartment complex also looks the same and the church where we were married is still there. However, I wish I’d remembered to see if the minister who married us was still there.
Dr. Pepper Sign
Our visit to Blacksburg brought up some bittersweet feelings. It was nice to have all those nice memories come flooding back, but then to realize how much time has passed since we left is somewhat depressing. You hear it a lot while growing up to the point you make fun of those who say it, but time really does pass by so quickly. You just don’t realize it when you’re young.

The treat of the trip was finding out how nice of a city Roanoke has become. We stayed near downtown at Cambria Suites and were surprised at how much character the city has. It doesn’t appear to be like some cities (which will remain nameless) in my neck of the woods where it seems like their whole purpose is to be ubiquitously upscale and trendy while sacrificing any historical or local character they may have had.
H&C Coffee Building Sign
We especially enjoyed wandering around City Market poking around in the various local shops and visiting the History Museum of Western Virginia and the Taubman Museum of Art. The idea of “shop local” seems to be taken seriously in downtown Roanoke as there are few if any retail/restaurant chains there. Although I must confess, the missus and I did frequent Starbucks and made a stop at Fresh Market to purchase food for dinner one evening. But we had gift cards, so we are excused.

Finally, while driving back to our hotel, we passed by this wonderful yellow colored brick Catholic church. Very different and a great visual end to our sight-seeing trip.
Yellow Cathedral
I’m not sure if we’ll ever be back that way again, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be visiting Floyd, Virginia and the Floyd Country Store, a thirty to forty-five minute drive outside of Blacksburg and a very popular gathering place for bluegrass music lovers. Our trusty GPS took us through there on our way to Hokie town. I hadn’t driven on winding mountain roads like the ones leading up to Floyd since I was teenager driving over the mountain to get to my grandparents home in West Virginia. We had no idea we’d be passing through there, so didn’t have time to stop. But it is a picturesque historic town that exudes quaintness and is now on our list of places to visit.

City Market Roanoke VA

Coca Cola Building Advertisement

Roanoke Weiner Stand

Agnew Seed

Taubman Museum of Art

On The Square in the Country

This past weekend, the missus and I, along with her parents, enjoyed a delicious dinner at On The Square. The unique thing about this restaurant is that it’s located not in Raleigh or some other upscale metro area, but in downtown Tarboro, NC, an humble, little historic town east of Rocky Mount, NC and I-95.
Pan Roasted Oysters

The restaurant is located in an old store front and is tastefully decorated and welcoming. The staff is friendly and do a great job making sure one’s dining experience is as enjoyable as possible. And for the wine enthusiasts, there is a small wine store adjacent to the restaurant.
Petit Filet

On The Square is owned and operated by Inez and Stephen Ribustello. Their culinary resumes are quite impressive and they bring to eastern NC an upscale dining experience that is neither pretentious nor overly-trendy.
Shrimp Thai Curry

It’s not the cheapest place to eat; however, it’s certainly not the most expensive. In fact, it’s priced rather reasonably and one definitely gets what one pays for. The food is wonderfully delicious, particularly the sauces, as my father-in-law and I can attest to. The portions are just right leaving one feeling satisfied, not stuffed.

And if you are one who enjoys dessert as I do, I recommend ordering the Apple Shortcake. It’s quite good; it’s light, not too rich and the apples are cooked just enough. Afterwards, you can treat yourself to a stroll around historic Tarboro and take in some scenery and history by viewing some beautiful old homes.

Although it’s a bit of a drive from most places in the Raleigh area (even from the missus’s and my country abode), it’s definitely worth the trek. Just be sure to call ahead for a reservation as you may have to wait awhile if you show up without one.

Mister and Missus In D.C.

The Normandy Hotel

The missus and I travelled to D.C. last weekend and had a really great time. This time, we decided to visit places a little off the beaten tourist path.

We stayed at The Normandy Hotel located a few blocks north of DuPont Circle. It’s a cozy hotel with very modern room furnishings and decor. Plus the lobby and sitting area are furnished in such a way to make you feel as though you are at home, not passing time in a homogenous building that can be found anywhere just off of an interstate exit.
WWII Memorial

We did trod the beaten path a little, though. We wandered down to the National Mall strolling past the closed Washington Monument to the World War II Memorial. It’s a very nicely done memorial that actually invites one to sit down and reflect on the sacrifices of the veterans of that war.

Reflecting Pool Under Construction
Then on to The Lincoln Memorial past the mud-hole that is The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool (it will be a reflecting pool again, but it’s under repair).

For dinner the first evening, we stopped at Zorba’s Cafe on 20th Street. We ended up having Pizza Kerkyra which has fresh baby spinach as a topping, not the canned stuff. Deliciousness.

The next morning, we headed down towards The National Portrait Gallery. The missus wanted to view the presidential portraits, which by the way, are on the second floor. I’d highly recommend any art lover to visit this gallery. I’d guess the art museums on the National Mall get alot more foot traffic; but with the portrait gallery being a little ways off from that, it’s a little less crowded and thus enjoyable. And there are more than just portraits housed there; they’re are plenty of pieces of sculpture to be viewed.
President Lincoln Portrait

However, due to the gallery not opening until 11:30AM, we ended up going to the The National Museum of Crime & Punishment. It costs to get in to this exhibit, but it’s definitely worth the entry fee. The exhibits chronicle known beginnings of law enforcement up to the present day detailing what crimes and punishments were prevelant during a given period in time. It also has exhibits on historical and modern law enforcement including forensic evidence collection and analysis methods (getting into CSI-type territory). A very interesting hour or two of education.

Jefferson Memorial
Skip to departure morning: we stopped by The Jefferson Memorial. I’ve visited DC many times in my life, but have never had the opportunity to see this particular memorial. I’m sSo glad I was able to this time. It’s a unique monument set off from the din of the National Mall in a beautiful park next to the Potomac River and tidal basin.

All in all, it was a very nice trip. I can’t wait to go back and see what else is off the well-trodden path in DC.

Get Outta Town!

RoadTook a trip home this past weekend. A short review of the drive there:

-Finish up all of the little chores that need to be done prior to departure. The more that are completed, the more that come up that need to be done. No rest for the ready to get out of town.

-Hit the road a bit before 7PM, crank up some tunes courtesy of Owl City (why have I not heard of this guy before? I’ll elaborate in a future post).

-Get on interstate, set cruise on 70 MPH. I’ve found that if I set my speed at the speed limit, it’s rare that I have to manuver around any other cars. Everyone else just zips around me. If I don’t follow this approach, then I tend to get aggressive and start speeding and becoming annoyed at other drivers.

-Okay, this van from Massachusetts keeps speeding up then slowing down, speeding up, slowing down. And he’s staying in the left lane! Ah, now I understand. The van loses speed on inclines. Time to hit 80 and get away from this guy.

-Approaching the halfway mark of the trip and am craving a DQ Blizzard. They now offer mini-Blizzards which is good since I’m trying to be better about what I eat. I hear there’s this thing called portion control, but haven’t quite mastered that yet. Strangely enough, the past couple of months I’ve been downing fruits and vegetables like crazy. Bananas, apples, cucumber/tomato sandwiches, strawberries. Better those than lots of Hostess Zingers and Double Stuf Oreos.

-Grrrrrr. Can’t find a DQ off any exit. Hey, there’s a Chick-fil-a! Wait a minute. Apparently it’s a mile or so off of the exit. I still haven’t come across it. Double grrrrrr. U-turn and going back to the Starbucks Julie and I usually stop at on this trip. (Does that ever happen to you on trips you take once or twice a year? We tend to stop at the same exits each time. Curious.)

-I’ve noticed that although Starbucks changed to their new logo on their cups, etc., they have not changed it on their signs. Wasn’t there some hullabaloo over the rebranding?

-On the road again. Coffee and sugar buzz going from the high octane java and chocolate chunk cookie. Cranking some BT right now. Really into electronic music lately (again, topic for future post referenced above).

-Contacts are starting to dry out after having them in all day. Should have changed to glasses at the last stop. Can’t read any road signs. Why is it times like this that I realize I don’t drive much after sunset? Odd.

-Over the mountain and through the woods…

-Finally arrived at destination a little after 11PM. A good trip, no delays. Gang’s all here. House is full of snacks. Love these types of short trips. Good excuse to veg and not be quite so stringent on the dietary front.

On The Trail

Old VineJulie and I went hiking this past weekend at the Roanoke Canal Trail in Roanoke Rapids, NC. If you ever get the chance to hike this trail, it is well worth the visit.

It is situated along the old navigation and power canals built in the early 1800’s and starts out at Roanoke Rapids Lake which is used to provide hydroelectric power via the dam operated by Dominion Resources. It runs 7.8 miles and passes by through some really great natural scenery as well as some interesting historical structures including remnants of the old “Power Canal” bulkhead. You can read all about it at the link above because I don’t feel like writing in detail about it here.

Suffice to say, we’ll be going back soon I’m sure. And one thing about hiking, it’s definitely an addictive activity. Being out in nature away from internet sensory overload and all of the other modern day gadgets and distractions that creep into our lives is a good thing.

Roanoke Rapids Lake and Dam

Roanoke Rapids Lake

Remants of Power Canal Bulkhead

Remants of Power Canal Bulkhead

Remants of Power Canal Bulkhead