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Monday, July 31, 2006


Some say that demographics show the third age set will not leap into the blogosphere. I say WE WILL! We’re ready to move with the times and never stop wanting to know. That’s why I moved from a website to a blog.

Use the blog format to comment on a post; just click on the “comment” link at the bottom of the post, and add your 2¢. That opens a dialogue. I’m interested in your reactions and additions. Or email directly from the post by clicking the envelope sign.

You can also subscribe to this and many other blogs (and there are blogs on any subject imaginable). Go to, and you’ll find it easy and fun. For one thing, blogs are added to relatively often, so you can read a post as it is published. It’s easier that way.

I still have the link to my Travel Agency in the column on the right, so please continue to use that too. For new readers, if you prefer, just click on the “Subscribe” link in the column on the right, and I will send you the blog monthly. Add to your Favorites, and come back often.

Most of all ENJOY!


Here’s a great way to celebrate any special occasion. Rent a cabin in the mountains, fill it with people you cherish, and let the games begin!

For Rob’s 60th birthday, we rented a cabin high in the mountains overlooking the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. The cabin was rightfully named Mountain Top, and the view was spectacular. On the deck sat a hot tub and behind us links to hiking rails. Our kids came up from Blacksburg, VA and down from DC. The combination of place and people made this big birthday one to remember.

We were located just north of Luray, VA, and Luray Caverns was a must see stop. Rob and I have been there several times, Michael and Allison never, and Don and Leslie when they were little. That entire area of Virginia is loaded with caverns that were explored and developed for the sole purpose of luring tourists. Each advertises a special attraction or theme.

Luray Cavern’s particular attraction is a pipe organ that uses the stalactites and stalagmites as pipes. Yes, a musician spent years finding the exact formation for each pipe’s note, and the result is remarkable.

The organ is in a big open cavern deep within the earth. Weddings occur there, and I could see the different connections among the rock formations. “Most impressive,” as they say in Star Wars. Nothing in the cavern proved disappointing to any of us. The tour involves walking, and remember to bring your AAA card for a discount.

We were also near Front Royal, a gateway to beautiful Skyline Drive, a splendid 105 mile long roadway twisting its way along the crest of the magnificent Shenandoah Mountains and treating us to views that steal the breath away. Make sure to stop at Front Royal’s Visitor Center for maps of the area: walking tour maps, battlefield maps, and hiking maps geared to every level of difficulty. You’ll also enjoy some great discussions with the knowledgeable staff and in passing, observe a quaint, historic Virginia town.
Skyline Drive evenually becomes the Blue Ridge Parkway and takes you from the Shenandoah Mountains to the Smokies.
You can also get very whimsical and go to the Shenandoah River, sing the song and think of the movie starring Jimmy Stewart. Rent a canoe or swim.

As always in Virginia there are Civil War battlefields. VMI’s museum at the New Market Battlefield commemorates the services of Virginia Military Institute teenagers who left the classroom to enter battle. It's a great bit of history, and you can do a self-guided walking tour.

While all the activities present many possible ways to spend the time, the real beauty of a mountain cabin is in not leaving it too often. Peace and serenity are what you come for. The companionship in a quiet, stressless environment is where the value lies.

We were so high in the mountains that the soaring buzzards were below us. We were so remote that after our first night there were bear droppings around Michael’s car because he and Leslie had left McDonald’s wrappers in there overnight! We were, in fact, so high that the steepness of the road (perhaps giving this gravel bed the benefit of the doubt) coupled with a driving rain the night we arrived presented challenges to Allison’s car. But sitting in the living room, log on the fire, and playing Trivial Pursuit with the people we love most was priceless. It’s not often enough that we get a chance to simply enjoy—each other and nature.

There are several ways to find cabins to rent. It takes a bit of time and a bit of faith, but it’s worth it. For years we rented a cabin on Schroon Lake in New York’s Adirondack Mts. I looked in a travel brochure and rented site unseen. The owners happened to live near my dentist, and when I drove by their home, I thought they probably keep their rental community nice. Pretty naïve, but I was right. We rented with them for years—until they sold the upstate property. So request state travel agency brochures, look in guides such as Frommer’s, and Google cabin rentals in the desired state. Keep your fingers crossed. You’ll get a host of possibilities.

GIGI'S FOLDEROL II--Westtown, New York

Gigi's Folderol II, 795 Route 284, Westtown, NY 10998 (845) 726-3822

Gigi’s Folderol II, another little gem tucked away in a little place, Westtown, NY, is definitely worth the trip—even if it’s long. No kidding. This is a restaurant where you are treated as an old friend, and you are made to feel comfortable and very welcome.

Getting to Folderol means a lovely drive through the country. We hit a detour because of some bridge construction. The detour was a winding road. Suddenly our heads almost jerked off our necks; a herd of camels ran by. But that’s a story for another time.

The building, itself, dates back to the 1850’s. Take the time to be an observer. Looking at the wood plank floors, and hearing its history is worthwhile.

The décor is lovely. Candlelight and flowers at the tables and comfortable seats that allow for lingering add to the mood, vaguely romantic. Music on Friday and Saturday night by pianist Richard Wiggins (affectionately known as Wiggy) adds a calm, delightful feeling to the room. But don’t think that Folderol’s lure is its gracious ambiance or its history. Folderol’s lure is its food.

We had the pleasure of meeting Virginia and Dion, the owners. Our server, Valerie Mallia was an energetic supporter of Folderol who made sure we were introduced. She also gave us wonderfully accurate advice on menu selection.

Without segue, I’ll go back to an earlier visit when Rob and I ordered rack of lamb.
“How would you like it done?” our server asked.
“Huh?” we answered.
“You’ll like it the way you like steak,” he said.
Now, Rob and I were never asked by our mothers how we liked our lamb or any other meat, for that matter. They cooked it until it rivaled hockey pucks for hardness. Little did we know…. It was glorious. That was a terrific Folderol experience!!!!

Back to this latest dinner. Folderol bills itself as French-Eurasian. That’s a lovely combination in terms of menu choices.

My description of our appetizers will be enough to make your mouth water. Maui Spring Rolls—chicken, ginger, and bok choy filling with passion fruit balsamic dipping sauce. Escargots en Croute—with spinach, sweet peppers and saffron sauce. Baked Brie in Puff Pastry—served with pecans and fresh seasonal fruit. There we were, sipping Knob Creek or Cosmopolitans, and nibbling on some of the best appetizers we’ve ever tasted.

Look at the description of the entrees we chose. The always outstanding New Zealand Rack of Lamb with an herb Dijon crust and juniper berry demiglace, Asian Five Spice Roasted Duckling with fruit glaze, Waikato Veal Rack with roasted figs and a Cabernet demiglace, and Chicken Breast with panko crust stuffed with fontina cheese, asparagus, apricots and roasted red pepper served with an apple cider reduction. Everything was about as good as it gets. Everything was served attractively. It seems that at Folderol, nothing is left undone that might make the diner feel comfortable and pampered in every way.

If there was a downside to the Folderol experience, it was that there was no room left for dessert, tempting as they were.


If you like a road trip companion that will put no strain on the brain and become, at times, so wacky that you look at your traveling companion in wide-eyed astonishment, then you will enjoy Larry McMurty’s Telegraph Days. It’s a 9.5 hour romp through the Old West. You’ll meet every Wild West character you’ve ever heard of, and you’ll get a kick out of them and their shenanigans.

Telegraph Days is read—no, performed—by Annie Potts who is an endearing Nellie Courtright (her name is actually a pun and a bit perverse as you will learn). Nellie is a lusty lass bent on “copulating” (her term) with every male she can seduce! Her conquests are quite extensive. So is her descriptive vocabulary—but it’s all in good fun, and you’ll be forced to laugh.

Larry McMurty’s attempt at using a female voice is sometimes funny, but the overall effect is a light-hearted enjoyable tale.

Twenty-two year old Nellie Courtright and her 17 year old brother, Jackson, arrive in the little town of Rita Blanca after their father’s death. They had migrated west from Virginia where she had already romanced Wild Bill Hickcock. She secures Jackson the job of deputy sheriff and she becomes the town’s telegrapher. Witnessing a gunfight where Jackson is the unlikely hero, she writes the story and her fame begins.

She becomes friends with Buffalo Bill Cody, who saw Rita Blanco as the quintessential Old West town and Nellie as the preeminent organizer, the James Brothers, and various bad guys like Billy the Kid. She travels throughout the West, finally settling in Santa Monica, CA where she even meets Louis B. Mayer, Lillian Gish and many of Hollywood’s early celebrities although she declines to see the movie made from her books.

Rob and I enjoyed the silliness, the exaggerations and the whimsical quality of the narrative. We thought Larry McMurty was having a good time with his characters and with us. And we did too. This audio book is a great traveling companion!

FT. EUSTIS--Newport News, Virginia

If you ever have an opportunity to tour a military installation, jump at the chance. They’re fascinating places, specialized mini-worlds designed to promote, in a variety of ways, the specific functions of each post. Most Forts are “homes” to a branch of the Army, and there are tours and/or museums that give you a little insight into the complicated workings that make the military run. Having been to Annapolis and being a frequent visitor to West Point, I assure you that the academies are also different worlds worth investigating. Today with the world as it is, the insights gained are particularly pertinent.

Located in Newport News, Virginia is the home of the Army’s Transportation Corps. This is Ft. Eustis. Among the myriad activities at Ft. Eustis are the Army’s Transportation schools conducted for personnel of various ranks and duties and taught in classrooms through simulated exercises, in the field, and in practical, on-the-job training exercises. There is a reason for the motto “Nothing Happens Until It Moves.” Movement is no easy task.

I was mightily impressed by what I learned and what I saw at Ft. Eustis. On an open field, for instance, sat mockups of the cargo areas of the huge air cargo planes. “Plane” is an understatement. The size of even the smallest is absolutely awesome! A C-5 can carry 170,000 lbs. of cargo! On occasion I’ve seen a C-5 from a distance as I’ve driven by Stewart Airport, but even that relatively short distance belies the enormity of these planes.

Forget the other parts of the plane and focus only on the cargo compartment. It is 13.5 ft. high, 19 ft wide and 143 ft. 9 inches long. Unloaded, but with a full tank of fuel, it can fly two round-trip transcontinental US flights without refueling. This is the definition of massive.

Managing the loading and unloading, securing and balancing, and recognizing and accounting for weight limitations are just a few of the considerations with which officers deal. Thousands of tons of cargo must be precisely packed and placed in these cavernous areas that become flying warehouses of goods and materiel. It is a daunting responsibility. Weight shifts are a big no-no.

A second training area dealt not with planes but with trains. Once again, the intricacies involved clearly illustrate why the Transportation Branch is so important.

Flatbed railroad cars, box cars, and any railroad car imaginable come to the loading platform, but different equipment, depending on size and weight, might only be transported on specific types of cars. The huge and very heavy tanks require special kinds of cars on which to be transported. Moving different vehicles on to the appropriate trains takes time and precision. Securing them, making certain safety issues are considered, and later, at the destination, unsecuring and off-loading then takes additional skill and precision.

In the bay out on the water are ships where students learn the intricacies and special requirements of transporting on the water. It was news to me that at one time the Army maintained more vessels than the Navy. These vessels are piloted by Army personnel. The Navy deals primarily with ships of battle, but the Army transports its huge variety of cargo all over the world.

I haven’t even mentioned ground vehicles, but officers take into consideration such factors as weight, the types of and quality of the roads (think Iraq and sand) and challenges of terrain.

The saying that The Transportation Corps is the Spearhead of Logistics is true. This highly diverse branch serves on land, sea, and air supporting and moving everything our Army men and women require to do their jobs.

Go to a different base for any branch of the service, and you will get an eye-opening look at what goes on behind the scenes. There’s much more to the military than meets the eye. Ft. Eustis is bigger than this limited view, and that supports my belief that should you have an opportunity to tour, jump at it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Captain George's
2710 West Mercury Blvd.
Hampton, VA 23666
(757) 826-1435

We’ve been to Captain George’s before—in Virginia Beach and in Myrtle Beach, so the fact that Michael wanted to go to the original Captain George’s when we visited him in at Ft. Eustis was no surprise.

This is a big, airy place, but not nearly as big as the others we’ve visited. Captain George’s is not elegant, but it offers a bountiful buffet, friendly and courteous service, and a “vacation” atmosphere. I particularly like that “I’m on vacation” feeling.

To give you an idea of the variety involved—and servers continually refilled dwindling selections, there are 21 seafood entrees, eight meat and other entrees including prime rib, soup and salad items, and at least eight dessert items.

Rob and I began with a nice she-crab soup, creamy and full of meat. Then we went our separate ways. I stayed primarily with steamed clams and Alaskan Snow Crab legs while Rob and Michael diversified more. Michael suggested the seafood combination called The Norfolk Special. They ate Oysters Rockefeller, fried clams, a variety of broiled fish and several other types of seafood. Somehow it was easy for all of us to pass on the BBQ Ribs and prime ribs. This is a house of seafood.

We all finished with a sampling of dessert and coffee. Here we were unanimous. The rice pudding was the best.

Captain George’s isn’t gourmet. But at $23.95, it’s a nice, fun place to add to the laid-back vacation experience.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Here's a bit of travel practicality.

When you use the little coffee maker in your hotel room, unless you like your coffee very weak, don't put in the recommended four cups of water. We like our coffee strong, so we use three cups. Probably three and a half cups will suffice.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


I must admit to a fascination with Margaret Truman’s mystery novels. If you’ve read David McCullough’s biography of President Truman, Truman, you know Margaret as a beloved, pampered first daughter whose talents were nurtured, often publicly. Makes me wary. Her mystery novels, however, all called Murder at (location), acknowledge that there is talent!

Each book revolves around a Washington DC locale, and for those familiar with DC, the ping of recognition brings added delight.

Additionally, Margaret’s experience and insight into the machinations of DC politicos gives her license to sling a bit of sarcasm-laced mud, often jibing the sanctimonious and absurd “inside the beltway” thinking. She loves to lampoon the over-inflated self-proclaimed important. Watching her deflate adds fun to the books.

Murder at Union Station brings us right into the location, describing its marble grandeur. Prior to air travel, this is the place from which presidents and other important personages boarded trains for their travel. The presidential waiting room is now BSmith’s restaurant, and it is deliciously described in the novel. Description is Truman’s strength, not only in setting but also in character.

Meet Geoff Lowe, powerful senatorial staff member who believes in trickle-down importance. What he will do to achieve political objectives may be heinous but not necessarily surprising. There’s Chet Fletcher, political advisor to the President. Here’s a man on the opposite side of the aisle but no less a potential villain. He’s almost out there to dispassionately field test his academic theories on politics.

Toss in a lonely, alcoholic DC cop, Bret Mullin, looking for a connection and involved with solving crimes almost despite himself, Tim Stripling, a former CIA agent “consulting” on a secret per diem basis, Louis Russo, a reputed Mafioso living in Israel under the Witness Protection Program, and Richard Marienthal, a young, frustrated writer dying to show his successful lawyer father that he has the right stuff. You're well into a plot that twists, turns, and drops hints not only about the crime but also about the dirty underside of Washington politics.

The title is the only hint I will give you to the plot. Reading as the solution materializes will keep you guessing. Suspense is another Margaret Truman strength.

This is a quick, enjoyable read that will probably lead you to explore Truman’s list of murders a bit more thoroughly. If you do, I recommend Murder at the Kennedy Center.