Monday, January 25, 2010

Vacation- The Final Days

On day seven of our trip we packed the dog and took a drive to the other side of Lake Norman to the Duke Energy Lake Norman State Park. We chose the moderate five mile hike. I, personally, was grateful the 13 mile hike the girls wanted to try was closed due to wet conditions!

This massive old oak tree was in the middle of our hike, almost like it was standing guard over the whole forest. The pictures don't do it justice as it had to have been five feet in diameter!

The day started off cool and cloudy. I say cool, but in reality it was in the mid 40's and therefore balmy by Connecticut standards. About a mile into our hike the sun came out and the temperatures soared into the upper 60's! It was a great day for a hike and we saw a lot of animal tracks on the beaches.

At one point we came upon a herd of white tailed deer that were pretty content to just stand and stare at us. If you look really close at the picture you can just make out two of them. Really, they're in there...

After our hike, we visited the North Carolina NASCAR Hall of Fame. This place is a NASCAR fan's dream! Photos, newspaper clippings, and all kinds of other memorabilia. Cars from the beginnings of NASCAR history, completely restored to perfection. I think Sam could have spent hours in there, but the kids were rather bored, so after 45 minutes we left and drove back to my parent's house to pack up our stuff and get ready to leave in the morning. We had decided after our drive down that there was no way we could drive the 15 hours straight through on Friday. So we booked a hotel in Hagerstown, Maryland and planned to make the trip over a two day period with a visit to Antietam thrown in for fun. The weather was forecast to be cooler (in the mid 40s) and partly sunny.

We left about 8 AM on Thursday after my mom filled us with eggs, bacon and coffee. We took a bit of a side trip to go to the Brushy Mountain Bee Suppliers. This is the company that I buy my bee supplies from and we figured we'd save a bit on shipping if we went and picked it up ourselves. They call it Brushy MOUNTAIN for a reason. Straight up on narrow twisty roads, in the rain. Fun stuff. So much for the partly sunny.

Once we were on the road for about 20 minutes we noticed one of the highway signs: "TRAVEL ALERT: WINTER STORM WARNING. TUNE IN TO LOCAL MEDIA FOR DETAILS".

What about our mid 40's and partly sunny? The local radio station informed us that this storm had taken them by surprise and we were now to expect 1/4 to 1/2 inch of ice and 2-4 inches of snow further north! Every school in the area was closing. Not 10 minutes later the windshield wipers started to get coated with ice, as did the antenna and the mirrors. The roads, amazingly, didn't get super slippery, although we did have to stop and remove the ice from the wipers so we could see out the windshield. When even the truckers started pulling off the highway and parking, we abandoned all thoughts we had of sightseeing and made a beeline for Hagerstown.

That night in the hotel, Sam and I decided to forgo Antietam and just leave as early as we could to get ahead of the storm as quickly as possible. From the radar maps and weather forecasts, it appeared that if we could just get north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania we would be in the clear. It turned out that Allentown, PA was where the storm slacked and as we approached Easton the sky was clear and sunny. We decided to stop and visit one of our favorite places: The Crayola Crayon Factory. We tacked on the National Canal Museum as well and had a wonderfully creative two hour detour.

We reached home around 7PM, unloaded some of the van, and went to bed early, very grateful that we had left North Carolina when we did! The next morning we got up early and went to Wallingford to pick up our new horse: Lewee. He's another freebie in need of a home and a hoof trim. No rest for the nutty...
Some of the quirky things we'll remember from our trip:
*the gas station which also sold raw oysters
*the "fresh and friendly" produce stand
*the red dirt that was everywhere
*the mega churches that were everywhere
*the pushcart vendor selling rib eyes on the street corner
*the United Reformed Methodist Associates Church (Huh?)
*every bridge (and I mean EVERY) has a sign warning that it might be icy
*pine cones as big as your head
*pine needles sold in bulk as mulch
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