Hitting the Empty Nester Lifestyle Hard

disney-fireworks-jfk

Sitting in the airport waiting to board our Southwest Airlines flight to Orlando, Florida, I felt a mix of excitement and guilt. We were traveling to the Happiest Place on Earth without our kids. It was definitely a weird feeling. When John and I talk about our happy places, it is different for each of us. Mine is a pool or Spain. His is Disney World. We hadn’t been back since 2010. How was that possible? It didn’t seem like it could be that long ago. Sheesh. How old are we? The short answer is old, but not too old for Disney World!

We were quickly struck by how much had changed. We had wristbands that contained our park passes and room keys, which, it turns out, was very convenient. We later found that the bands also held our photos from rides and character encounters. Wow. It was awesome. A little freaky for privacy seekers, but overall very cool and useful. Also, the refillable cups are now equipped with sensors that know when your stay is over, so no more bringing back last year’s cup and getting free soda for a week. We were never that organized but other people must have been to lead the Disney powers that be to put chips in those cups. That can’t be cheap, can it?

We began our week with the excitement of our recently married selves when we last visited Disney without kids. The approximately 25 years difference was almost immediately obvious by our earlier bedtime and willingness to call it a day sooner than our young selves would have. We were logging over 20,000 steps daily and feeling every one of them. We noticed a plethora of motorized scooters and can proudly and gratefully say that we are still young and healthy enough that the many, ever-present scooters annoyed us.

west-orange-trail-view

We also took the opportunity to go on a mid-week bike ride. As you can imagine, Florida has a number of wonderful trails from which to choose. John’s research lead us to two trails that both sounded great. One trail went through an area that was described as having a lot of opportunities to see wildlife and sounded more isolated. Readers of this blog know how I feel about wildlife… I thought that it sounded like there was a distinct possibility that one or both of us could be eaten by an alligator and no one would know. So, while in theory I’d love to see a bunch of animals with a variety of diets up close during a scenic bike ride, in practice, the answer is actually (as kids these days say) a hard no. Which nudged us toward the West Orange Trail. It is a flat, paved, rail trail that included key points such as, 20 easy miles and restaurants along the route. It was also closer to our vacation accommodations in Orlando, and offered a conveniently located bike rental shop, Bikes and Blades, at the Killarney Station trailhead.

west-orange-trail-bridge

We set out with our newly rented bikes on a really nice, sunny and warm day. We peddled along feeling proud of ourselves for taking a break from the happiness of Disney to ride. But mostly I was feeling grateful to be doing something other than walking. We enjoyed the peaceful ride with few other people on the trail. We managed an ambitious 24 + miles total. We were tired but very pleased we were able to ride in February.

We were back in Disney World by mid-afternoon and moving onward with our agenda of fun. We took a quick trip to Epcot to ride Soarin’. Twice. It was different than the last time we did it, and still very fun. We then raced off to the Magic Kingdom for a quick dinner and reservations for the Fireworks Dessert Party at the Tomorrowland Terrace. It was a delicious dessert buffet and front row seats for the fireworks. It was all quite fantastic, and the next morning I couldn’t move. I was so sore and tired, I decided I needed a day by the pool. John, however, did not want to chill by the pool, but instead went off to see Stars Wars things in Hollywood Studios.

disney-selfies

Two additional big changes we noted were how much Disney Springs (which was called Downtown Disney the last time we were there) had grown. There were a lot of new restaurants and shopping! It was fun to spend the evening there. We went almost every night. We also decided to try Animal Kingdom again.

animal-kingdom-elephant

The last time we were there it was maybe a year old, and I wasn’t impressed. This time, it was very enjoyable. We saw a lot of animals and really thought it was worth the trip.

animal-kingdom-lion

We decided we could have easily stayed another week, which means we may be back in Disney sooner than last time.

 

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A Gem of a River Trail in North Carolina

Neuse River Greenway Trail River and Wetlands

Neuse River Greenway Trail
River and Wetlands

We were thinking that there are so many trails to check out and so few weekends before the weather turns too cold. So, why not take advantage of our Empty Nester status and being in North Carolina for the weekend to ride a trail that John had his eye on for awhile? The Neuse River Greenway Trail in Raleigh was worth the trip. We parked at the Neuse River Falls trail head, but there were literally dozens of entrances to this trail. It’s obviously a very popular area. Lots of people were there to tube, canoe, or float down the river, as well as the bike, walk or roller blade. The weather was sunny and warm (93 degrees when we finished, with a heat index of 102). We were grateful that the storms stayed away.

We started our ride by going to the dam area which was only a quarter of a mile or so from our parking spot. There were picnic tables, benches and more parking at this trail head. Plus, there were bathrooms and water fountains. 

The paved, wide trail is in great condition– very clean and obviously very well maintained. The road bike was a great call for this trail. There are a umber of little hills which were actually a nice change of pace from the more flat than not B&A Trail we’d been out on lately.
Neuse River Greenway Trail Trail Curves

Neuse River Greenway Trail
Trail Curves

Scenic views of the river dotted the way and the trees provided shade for much of the ride. There were lots of bridges and plenty of places to stop for a break at cozy spots with benches and/or picnic tables. But, the trail appeared to me to be needlessly curvy. It was the windiest trail we’ve ever ridden.  Like ridiculously curvy. We normally ride rail trails, which don’t seem to have much curve to them. I don’t think that the river caused the curviness, it’s more likely the fact that the greenway goes through wetlands and fields. We didn’t see any interesting wildlife, which is absolutely fine by me. But, I was surprised by this. Usually wetlands are teeming with wildlife. It’s likely that I may have just not noticed because I was constantly negotiating another curve or bridge. We loved how well marked in both distance and trail heads this trail was, which was a nice change of pace.

Neuse River Greenway Trail Curvy!

Neuse River Greenway Trail
Curvy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We rode about 12.5 miles before deciding to take a quick break and turn around to head back to the car. We stopped on a long bridge that crossed the river, which lead me to wonder how many bridges we had crossed. It seemed like quite a few. So, we counted how many bridges we crossed for fun on our way back, giving each bridge a catchy name so we wouldn’t lose count. We counted 23 bridges, the last of which we named “Jordan,” but then I was second guessing our number thinking we’d crossed 24. But, John maintains that we didn’t use “Jack Bauer” for 24, so we couldn’t have crossed it. We didn’t count how many we rode under, which was probably four or five more, nor did we count the covered areas of the trail that looked like bridges but were not. It was a fun trail.

Bridge over Neuse River

Bridge over Neuse River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got back to the car tired and sweaty and with the about four and a half hours left of our drive home, (which ended up taking longer thanks to traffic). We hit the bathrooms to change our clothes before starting back, but not before taking our customary selfie.

Post Ride Selfie!

Post Ride Selfie!

 

 

Tooling Along on our Trail Bikes

The Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

The Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

Heading into this July 4th holiday weekend, we didn’t have much lined up in terms of plans, however we knew we wanted to get out on our bikes again. Our friends, Sue and Sean, were also around. Hurray! Let the planning begin! We looked at the weather and picked Saturday as the best day for our ride. Although we have talked about a number of trail options (and have a long list of places we want to ride), we weren’t set on where to go. We ended up choosing the Michael Castle Trail (in Delaware) and the Ben Cardin Trail (in Maryland), which Sue and Sean had ridden last year.

St. Georges Trail Head, Delaware

St. Georges Trail Head, Delaware

The Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

The Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

We picked the trail head at St. Georges, which had plenty of parking and bathroom facilities. It was very straightforward to find coming from our house, and took about an hour and a half to get there. We were met by the views of the soaring bridges and the beautiful canal right away. After lubbing up with sunscreen, we set off for Maryland and the Ben Cardin Trail. The trail was not super wide, but it was paved and flat. And, while the parking lot was pretty full, the trail itself never felt crowded.

The Canal

The Canal

We were surprised it wasn’t, as it was a lovely day to be out. Everyone we passed was very friendly, which we all noticed. We enjoyed watching the mostly speed boats out on the canal as we tooled along. A couple miles in, we needed to track away from the canal and that’s where we hit a couple of hills. Shortly after that, we were back along the water and heading into a segment of trail that was rocks, gravel, and dirt. Thank goodness Sue had ridden it before and knew it was a definite trail bike trail. A few areas were so rocky, I was sure even the trail bike would have trouble, but it didn’t. Or, rather, I didn’t.

Michael_Castle_Trail_Trail and Canal View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the Many Bridges Along the Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

One of the Many Bridges Along the Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

We arrived in Maryland to literally zero fanfare. No “Welcome to Maryland” or “Delaware Looks Forward to Seeing You Really Soon, When you Return to Get your Car” signs or mileposts marked the change. There was a small sign that noted the end of the Michael Castle Trail, but that was it.

 

 

The trail along the Ben Cardin was also paved and a bit wider and was noteworthy for the benches that periodically dotted the way. There were port-a-potties at the end of trail at Chesapeake City. It was a cute trail head. We stopped and walked around a bit. It was about a 10.5 mile ride from the car.

The Ben Cardin Trail, Chesapeake City, MD Trail Head

The Ben Cardin Trail, Chesapeake City, MD Trail Head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The return ride seemed to go a lot faster, which is always the case. Especially when you rode out the 10 with a headwind. After loading up the bikes, we went into Delaware City. We found a great restaurant, Crabby Dick’s, with nice views of the water and had a delicious lunch. We once again have more of the trail to ride, (and another excuse to come back to this area). The piece going further into Delaware from our St. George’s starting point. We were exceedingly happy with our 21 miles and overall delightful day.

All Smiles After Great Ride!

All Smiles After Great Ride!

Back on our Bikes!

NCR Rail Trail

NCR Rail Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was dreading today. Although dread may be an understatement. John and I had decided to get back out on our bikes. On Sunday. Today. The weather was supposed to be good, so we planned to ride. But where? That was the question and that’s doubtless where most of the dread originated. Our last ride was in my happy place, Spain. Our day long ride on a rail trail through a natural park in Sevilla was a total delight. Here are the details. So, where could we ride that is close to our home, and really nice? At first, we actually couldn’t come up with any place that didn’t have a drawback or two. We were quite mindful that we were out of bike shape, having not ridden since Spain in April. I finally suggested that we go back to the Northern Central Railroad (NCR) Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail. It seemed like it could offer a scenic ride, but I’d have to use my trail bike instead of my road bike. I wasn’t sure how big of a problem that would be, as I felt very out of shape to be riding the heavy bike. But, oh well. It was too nice of a day to not try it. We told ourselves we’d take it easy. If it ended up being a short ride, so be it. The last time I was on this bike was last October on a section of this same trail. Here’s that post.

NCR Rail Trail

NCR Rail Trail

By the time we got in the car to go to our pre-selected trailhead, we were excited to be getting out for a ride. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. We jumped on the trail at White Hall. The trail was mostly shaded and offered delightful scenery for the entire ride. We made it to the Pennsylvania border, but the last few miles of enough of an uphill to notice, nearly did me in. The trail continues on into Pennsylvania, but there was no way we could have added any more miles to our ride today.

Maryland-Pennsylvania Border The Mason Dixon Line NCR Trail

Maryland-Pennsylvania Border The Mason Dixon Line
NCR Trail

But, next time… Thankfully, we were able to take a break and then enjoy some downhill on the return trip, which seemed to go a lot faster than the way out to the border. We rode a total of just under 20 miles and felt good, tired, but happy about the ride.

 

NCR_Trail_Selfie

 

In The Bubble

Owen Brown Tennis Club

Owen Brown Tennis Club

One of the advantages of being a blogger in Howard County (HoCo), Maryland is the wonderful network of bloggers you can get to know. Many of HoCo’s bloggers know and blog about local events and happenings, and etc. I was happy to catch up with one such knowledgeable blogger at the Nalley Fresh Blog party a couple weeks ago. Duane, of HoCoConnect blog fame, has shared lots of newsy tidbits on things to do around the county. Today, I had a chance to check one out. I went to Drop-in Pickleball at the Owen Brown Tennis Club bubble. Since I’m not a tennis player, it was my first time at this Columbia Association facility, which currently offers drop-in pickleball twice a week. Wednesdays from 1-3 PM and Thursdays from 12-2 PM. There is a nominal fee of $3.00, and they have paddles to use if you don’t have your own.

 

In the Bubble

In the Bubble


It was not my first time attempting to play Pickleball. But, it was my first time playing with folks who know the rules. I have a lot to learn, which is really easy to do with practice. And, while I can say I played real Pickleball, I cannot say it went real(ly) well. In fact, suffice it to say I will not be representing the USA in any World Pickleball Championships any time soon. Or ever. Just judging by my games today.

The good news is, I am back into the whole idea of playing and can now set about to get some drop in sessions on my calendar. Many thanks to Duane, his wife and her teammate for today for teaching me the ropes (and for having lots of patience!). With spring right around the corner, look for more opportunities to learn to play this fun game that has elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong at different locations around the county.

 

#HoCoBlogs

Bonus Day Fun

 

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. So long, in fact, that one of my fellow HoCo bloggers introduced me tonight as a retired blogger. Very funny, HoCoConnect! Because I have had such a good “Leap Day” and not because I was guilted into it, I am inspired to get back to my blog. (Smile)

Tonight, the HoCo Bloggers were invited to enjoy a meal at the new Nalley Fresh Restaurant, which is in the Dobbin Center plaza near Performance Bikes. Nalley Fresh offers a “Chipotle-style” make your own salad, wrap, or bowl. I think one of the more unique offerings, and there are several here, is the sweet potato base for your bowl. I did not try it, because I was drawn to the salad. There is a wall of lettuce options, and I asked to have a romaine and spring mix combination. From there I had to choose a protein, which wasn’t easy. The beef looked fabulous. There was shrimp and salmon, and three styles of chicken, and I was stuck in the land of too many choices. It was temporary. One of the very friendly staff members had told me to ask for a small taste of the protein to make sure I’d like it. So, I asked to try the plain, grilled chicken. It was OK, but I wasn’t sold on it. So, I took a chance on the whisky chicken. I proceeded to the next friendly server and picked a bunch of my favorite salad veggies, then skipped the cheese (as I do) and asked for ranch dressing on the side. I was offered a piece of nutty bread, which I accepted. It was a delicious salad if I do say so myself. It was very obvious why fresh is in the name. It was super fresh. On top of a great meal, John really liked the wrap he chose, too, it was fun to meet new bloggers and chat with the regulars. (I’m going to have a lot connecting to do on social media after I get this post up.)

I was happy to get to tell JessieX in person that I love her new blog series, The Uber Chronicles. It is so perfectly her. I was so energized by her excitement and our conversation that I’m sure that is also propelling me to write this post.

Earlier today I was able to get in one more Masters swim practice for February, and it ended up being about 500 more yards than the coach actually wrote for us. Note to self: It’s time to grab your prescription goggles so you can read what is actually written on the white board. It was a happy problem on a bonus day!

Go check out Nalley Fresh for yourself. You may even run into this guy:

Chef Nalley at the New Columbia, MD Nalley Fresh Location

And, if you’re lucky, there will be live music and you’ll catch him playing a mean harmonica.

#hocoblogs

 

New Bike! New Trail!

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My husband and daughter surprised me with an early birthday present–a new hybrid bike. It hasn’t been very long that we started our biking adventures, and the need to have more trail options than a road bike can handle had become apparent. There are just too many trails that are calling our names, but that would be too dicey to ride on my road bike. So, fatter tires it is.

I wanted to give the bike a test spin, so we took a little 5.5 mile ride in a local office park area. My initial reaction was 5.5 miles on a hybrid made me about as tired as 20+miles on my road bike. John decided my degree of exhaustion was due more to the fact I had had an early morning and eight hour work day, than the fatter tire size. Maybe, but I did notice a difference.

The Restored 1898 Monkton Train Station

The Restored 1898 Monkton Train Station

 

Our first trail with my new bike was the Torrey C. Brown (TCB)/Northern Central Railroad Trail (NCR Trail) from Ashland, Maryland to York, Pennsylvania.  We jumped on the trail at the Ashland Trailhead, which was about a 35 minute drive from our house. It was a chilly – low 50’s, but a sunny and bright fall day. There were lots of walkers, joggers, and bike riders coming and going. We set off and were immediately impressed with the scenic and serene trail vibe. The trail was alternately narrow and wider. The surface alternated between packed gravel (almost paved) to loose gravel; with lots of leaves. I was very glad to not be trying this trail on my road bike. There were several muddy areas that my new bike handled like a charm. As we traveled north, there were fewer people, but it was still a well-used trail. I was freezing. I decided I need earmuffs that fit under my helmet. And gloves that fit over my riding gloves. And, I could have used warmer socks. But, we were delighted by the trail, so we kept pedaling, hoping to warm up.
The trees were not in full autumn glory, but there was some nice tree color. The part of the trail we rode was probably 90% shaded. We entered Gunpowder Falls State Park and spent a good deal of time with the Big Gunpowder Falls in view. It was so nice. Talk about a great way to disconnect from reality. Just nice scenery and no sounds, but those in nature.

Position Light Signals, NCR Trail

Position Light Signals, NCR Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benches and picnic tables dot the trail. There were also some cute scenic points of interest. We stopped a couple times in sunny spots to warm up and enjoy the views. We went about 8.5 miles, just past Monkton, before turning around and heading back. This is another one of those long, beautiful trails that had us planning our next ride before our first one was finished. John was so taken with this ride, it was one of the big reasons he bought me the new bike. I agree with him. It is a great trail. And, it’s close to home. We will be back to try to get to Pennsylvania next.

Sunny Spot along the NCR Trail

Sunny Spot along the NCR Trail

  For our review and more photos of this trail, see my post on my bike trail blog here.