It has been about 3 weeks since our last post (from Billings, MT), and we have covered a lot of ground (literally), so I’ll try to keep to the highlights of our stops and share a few of our new experiences.
I am starting this post from the comfort of our room at the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel in beautiful Annapolis, Maryland. I will no doubt finish it a couple stops down the road. Our trip to Annapolis from Billings included stops in Dickenson and Jamestown, North Dakota; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Beloit, Wisconsin; Hawthorn Woods and Wilmette, Illinois; Maumee, Ohio; Punxsutawney and East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania; Jersey City, New Jersey; and finally Annapolis, Maryland.
North Dakota: Although we had miserable weather (40’s and rain) on our drive from Billings to Dickenson, the sky cleared just long enough for us to justify a visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Painted Canyon. Our plan was to just drive the 28 mile scenic loop through the park as dogs are not allowed out of their vehicles (wise policy). The loop was indeed beautiful and we even got our first real taste of fall foliage.
About 2/3’s of the way through the park we noticed a sudden burst of traffic coming from the other direction, which seemed odd as it was late in the day and we had not seen any on-coming traffic for almost 20 miles. Then, about 2 miles later, we saw the reason everyone was reversing course….
Upon reading reviews of the park I noticed several complaints from visitors about not seeing any buffalo. Not a problem that day! We stopped short of the herd to give them some distance, but decided to wait and see if they would clear the road. After all, we had only 10 miles to go and didn’t want to turn around and see the same 20 miles we had just driven. Well, the herd did move….and before we knew it, we were completely surrounded by buffalo. There was nowhere for us to go. Of course Wilma was absolutely freaking out, barking up a storm, in full protection mode. Fortunately the Buffalo completely ignored the hysterical canine behind the windows, and eventually mosied off into the prairie (thank God). It was a pretty intense 10 minutes, but we made it through unscathed with a good story and very tired dog!
The next day we drove through more cold and rain to Jamestown, a really small town about half way between Bismark and Fargo. We stopped in Bismark for three very distinct reasons: 1) Visit the State Capitol Building, 2) Buy lunch and walk Wilma, and 3) take a picture in front of good friend Ruthie Pearlman’s childhood home.
We noticed that North Dakota has an impressive display of large animal statues on highway 94.
Minnesota: After a quick stop-over at a “My Place” hotel in Jamestown, we made our way to Minneapolis for a much needed five-day stay. We checked into the Town Place Suites downtown just in time to pick-up some sandwiches and watch (and enjoy) the Raiders/Titans game, followed by a nice walk along the Mississippi River and dinner from Whole Foods.
Minneapolis is well known for its beautiful urban lakes and trails so we were anxious to get out there and hike with Wilma. During our stay we managed to get around Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun (well, half way around lake Calhoun so Robin could get her hair colored). The lakes are really pretty and some of the homes around them are quite spectacular.
We also found our way to Minnehaha Park to see Minnehaha Falls and get lunch, and the town of Stillwater, once voted the most picturesque small town in America. We enjoyed Stillwater so much that we decided to get our flu shots there.
Of course we couldn’t pass up a visit to the State Capitol Building in St. Paul.
Highlight of our time in Minneapolis: Lunch with Jenna, Brian, and Julian Apel. Jenna is the oldest daughter of my second cousin Debbie Lee. It was Jenna’s sister Katherine who got married in Chapel Hill last April (the primary destination of our first cross-country trip earlier this year). Brian and Jenna recently moved to Minneapolis from Chicago and 4 month old Julian is the newest addition to the family. We had a really nice lunch at Red Cow, catching up on everyone’s lives and taking turns holding Julian!
Lowlight of our time in Minneapolis: A visit to the emergency room at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. I guess this would be considered “something new” for our travels. I started showing signs of a kidney stone while exploring Minnehaha Park, and given my recent history with kidney cancer, I thought it prudent to get checked out. So six hours later a CT scan showed a decent sized stone stuck about 1/3 of the way down to the bladder. The physician, after explaining the stone could take up to six weeks to pass, loaded me up with pain meds, antibiotics, and a muscle relaxer, all while telling me to stay near major cities in case I need “advanced care” to help pass the stone (guess we’ll plan to drive quickly through Maumee and Punxsutawney). Oh the joy of having something to look forward to!
So with a kidney stone securely stuck in my right ureter, we packed up all the meds and headed off to our next stop, the Ironworks Hotel in Beloit, Wisconsin……just a few miles away from Beloit Memorial Hospital (just in case).
Wisconsin: We stopped in Beloit to visit with Gabe Pearlman, a lacrosse player for Beloit College and son of friends Al and Ruthie Pearlman (yes, Ruthie from Bismark). Al and Ruthie were also in Beloit, so we had a nice campus tour and a fun dinner at Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar.
Illinois: The next four days were spent visiting family and friends in the Chicago area, starting with a couple of nights at Al and Ruthie’s home in Hawthorn Woods. I guess I should say Al, Ruthie and Theo’s home. Theo being the Pearlman’s 105 pound yellow lab. Wilma and Theo had a great time running around the Pearlman’s expansive back yard and constantly pretending that someone was at the door.
Saturday night Al and Ruthie invited our friends Chuck and Cantor Rachel Rosenberg, and Dr. Barry and Claudia Altshuler for a quick visit and Lou Malnati’s pizza. It’s always nice visiting with childhood friends over pizza and beer! In fact it was so much fun that we neglected to take any pictures….ugh!
Sunday we hung out at the Pearlman’s and watched the Bears remarkable win over the Steelers, then went to visit the Levays (Robin’s sister Debbie, husband Brian and daughter Jordyn) where we watched the Raiders embarrass themselves on Sunday night tv! Well, at least the visit with family was nice.
Thanks Al and Ruthie (and Theo) for hosting us. It was so nice to hang out in a real home for a couple of days, and so much fun to get our dogs together for some playtime. Hopefully we’ll do it again some time!
The next couple days were spent in the North Shore area visiting with my sister Linda and lots of extended family. (BTW Linda, Wilma just absolutely loves her Starbarks cup chew toy!).
We started with a nice dinner with my cousins Paul and Marge Feldman (I guess technically Paul is a first cousin once removed as he was my father’s first cousin) and their daughter Debbie Lee (my second cousin and Jenna Apel’s mother….and Julian’s grandmother) at House 406.
Followed by lunch with my remarkable 90 y/o Aunt Corie who is one of the most intelligent people we know (how many 90 year olds pick up quantum physics as a hobby?). Thanks Aunt Corie for your list of Annotations. We will do our best to pick out at least a few books so we can discuss on our next visit!
Our time in Chicago ended with dinner and a nice walk with our sisters Debbie and Linda at Old Orchard, and a visit to Lake Forest Northwestern Hospital for a follow-up scan (that thankfully showed nothing to be worried about).
Quick note on our drive trip vacation themes: We considered 2014 to be our “Civil War battlefield / National Park trip”, 2015 was our “Presidential Library trip”, our first trip this year was our “visit to the Veterinarian trip”, our middle of the year trip was our “heat wave trip” and so far our current sojourn is becoming the “kidney stone / go to hospital trip”. We’re hoping for a new theme to emerge before this journey ends!
Ohio & Pennsylvania: Our stop in Maumee, Ohio (outside of Toledo) was one of our strategic stops. In other words Maumee was about as far we could drive in one day from the Northern suburbs of Chicago. We did have time to stop in South Bend and drive around the Notre Dame campus and their iconic football stadium. Notre Dame is truly a beautiful and incredibly well manicured campus. Wish we had more time to explore.
All I remember about Maumee was the really good Thai food we brought in for dinner from Bangkok Kitchen. We highly recommend it if you’re ever in Maumee!
OK, at this point I have to mention that I just absolutely love the movie “Groundhog Day”. Every time I happen to come across the show while channel surfing, my poor wife makes a face and offers this sarcastic comment, “Oh great Bobby, your favorite movie!”. So stopping in Punxsutawney to visit Gobbler’s Knob and to see Punxsutawney Phil (Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinaire) and wife Phyllis was absolutely going to happen!
We found our way to Gobbler’s Knob and were immediately greeted by Bob Young, a local volunteer whose sole job is to spend all day on location, greet visitors, and recite the history of Groundhog day. Bob was great fun and we learned many interesting facts (those interested can google Groundhog day), heard some good stories, and received a couple of cool mementos. We knew that the movie was not filmed in Punxsutawney (Woodstock, Illinois), but did learn that the ceremony and community events were pretty genuine. We were surprised to hear that up to 30,000 people descend upon Gobbler’s knob to attend the festivities (Punxsutawney has a population of about 5,000). Avid revelers arrive at 3 AM (remember this happens February 2 in Pennsylvania) and the show starts with fireworks. Afterwards the party moves to the town square.
Phil and Phyllis happen to live in the Punxsutawney Public Library, so we stopped by to see them but they were sound asleep in their den. Cute little guy!
Although not exactly a bucket list item, we did enjoy our stop to visit Phil, and we (I) look forward to watching the real thing (on TV) next February 2nd, with a whole new appreciation for the event.
Our next stop, East Stroudsburg, PA, was chosen because it had the only pet friendly hotel relatively close to Bushkill Falls park. We don’t remember how we found out about Bushkill Falls (the Niagara of Pennsylvania) but we are very glad we did. The park, located in the Pocono Mountains, is a privately owned series of eight waterfalls, all connected by a series of well maintained trails and man-made wooden stairways.
New Jersey: Saturday started in the splendor of the Poconos and ended in the hustle and bustle of Jersey City, where we had the good fortune to visit with our wonderful family friend Courtney Jeffries, her husband Bernie (who has managed to avoid meeting us on all our previous visits to NYC), and their puppy Alby.
We had the best time exploring their neighborhood, hanging out in their amazing apartment (with incredible views), drinking their alcohol, eating a delicious Bernie created chicken risotto, and watching the UDub beatdown of OSU. Thanks Courtney, Bernie, and Alby for entertaining and housing us! You guys are awesome!
Maryland: We recently found out that our friend Shiera Henderson was going to be in Annapolis at the same time we were to be passing through, so we made a couple changes to our itinerary so we could stay in Annapolis and have dinner with her and her partner Allen. Shiera and Allen are living on Allen’s boat and sailing the open seas (puts our trips to shame!). Their boat “Gemeaux” is in the Annapolis harbor for some repairs, so the three of us were lucky enough to be invited to have a home cooked “surf and turf” dinner on the boat!
Shiera and Robin met many years ago when Robin was walking our Golden Retriever Penny on the Iron Horse Trail. Shiera was interested in getting a Golden and Robin helped her by contacting our breeder. Friends ever since, Shiera has watched Wilma a couple of times for us, so needless to say, Wilma was over the top excited to see Shiera.
Thanks Shiera and Allen! We’re so grateful for your hospitality and oh so jealous! Good luck and Bon Voyage!!
Monday was a very rare “3 date day”. It started with Robin, Shiera, and Wilma taking a nice morning walk around the Navy campus while I tried to make some progress on this post. Then, after checking out of the very comfortable Waterfront Hotel
we drove to Silver Springs to have lunch with our friend Janie Murow and her grand-daughter Ella. Janie (childhood friend from Omaha) also just happens to be in town visiting, so we arranged a lunch date. It’s always great seeing Janie and we just loved meeting Ella……who serenaded us with several rounds of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”.
Finally, our friends Pam and Chuck Ex (Robin and Pam were roommates at U of I) currently live in Silver Springs, so we were invited to dinner (our third straight home cooked dinner). Unfortunately we didn’t get to see Chuck (the Dept of Justice keeps its lawyers busy these days) but we had a really nice evening with Pam and Seppi, their wonderfully behaved 15 year old Portuguese Water Dog.
So thanks Janie and Ella for taking the train to meet us, and thanks Pam and Seppi for a great barbecue dinner and dessert!
Virginia: After spending the night in Chantilly, VA, today (I’m finally caught up!) we repeated something old, a drive along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. We visited this park in April, 2014 expecting to see a park flush with springtime Blue Ridge Mountain growth. Instead, due to the unusually long cold winter, spring was late and the trees were bare. We did, however, see the potential and vowed some day to return (in summer or fall). Although we missed peak fall foliage (by 1 week according to the park ranger), we did finally see Shenandoah in all its splendor.
Arrived in Charlottesville, checked into “The Graduate Hotel” which is directly across the street from the UVA campus (and has the worst carpet of any hotel we’ve ever stayed in), took a nice stroll around campus, and settled in for the night…..still waiting for the stone to drop!