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!

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A Winter Trip to Buffalo, Yes, Please!

Beautiful Canal and Bridge, Buffalo, NY December 2014

Beautiful Canal and Bridge, Buffalo, NY December 2014

Thinking of taking a trip to the Buffalo/Niagara area, why not do so over the winter?

Yes, I just suggested that you should plan a trip to one of the reputed snowiest places in the U.S. that is not known for its skiing. To the very city where, on November 18, 2014 , a heavy snowstorm left a 7 to 8 foot swath of snow, courtesy of Lake Erie, on neighborhoods and highways in Buffalo suburbs in surgical fashion. The places that were hit, were hit hard. Others just minutes away got a dusting. The snow has long since melted. We were trekking up to visit family just after Christmas. The weather was mild and perfect for travel.

Most of the folks I know that go to Buffalo, go to visit family or have planned a family vacation to Niagara Falls. That is all well and good. However, I want to give you an awesome tip on a fun, family vacation in which Buffalo is THE, if not A destination, as well. There are plenty of fun things to do there now, including skating, curling, or biking (yes, I wrote biking. Ice biking, to be specific) on the new and recently opened Canalside ice rink. It is, as they say,  “on fleek”; awesome and amazing and wonderful all at once. I was very eager to skate on the rink, as soon as I saw pictures of it. I found, tried on, and then packed my skates. I was so excited.

Canalside Ice Rink When Closed.

Canalside Ice Rink When Closed.

Unfortunately (and fortunately all at the same time), the weather was very mild. It was too mild to skate on Saturday. The rink was closed, but because we were going to the Buffalo Sabres hockey game that night, we went downtown early to check out the recently developed Canalside area and the new HarborCenter. We walked around the waterfront and then ambled over to where the ice rink is located. It looked really nice and was a good size. We walked around it and moved on to our next stop: the new (716) Food and Sport restaurant in the HarborCenter that John really wanted to try. (716 is the area code for Buffalo.)

We had heard from family members that the restaurant is a huge hit and there is usually a wait. So, we thought we had planned accordingly. We got to Canalside around 3:00 PM and wandered around. There were a lot of people everywhere. This is a complete change from before the downtown redevelopment started. It used to be more like a ghost town than a destination.

But, clearly, it has become a destination. We walked over to (716) to put our names on the list at about 3:30/3:45 PM. There was a line of people snaking around under a pop up tent outside the door. As we were getting our bearings and finding our way into the line, we heard the young lady with the clipboard saying, “There is a three to four hour wait for a table at this time.” Wut?

Yes, she said that. Our perfectly planned outing hit another snafu…the first being the ice rink was closed due to the mild weather. It was not going to work for us to get a table, eat and make it to the hockey game on time.

Waterfront, Buffalo, NY December 2014

Waterfront, Buffalo, NY December 2014

 

Happily, with the help of John’s sisters and a nephew, we were able to find another restaurant that could seat us almost right away. We ate at the Liberty Hound, a quaint restaurant situated in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, at the original terminus of the historic Erie Canal. Afterwards, we walked over to the First Niagara Center for the game. It was a great game, which ended in a Buffalo win in a shootout.

 

Canalside Ice Rink Open! Buffalo, NY December 2014

Canalside Ice Rink Open! Buffalo, NY December 2014

Fast forward to Sunday. We found out that the rink was going to be open that afternoon. Hurrah! I was very excited, although some in our party were less than thrilled with the idea of going ice skating–at first. As soon as we got there and saw the throngs of people, the excitement spread through our party.

All Smiles!

All Smiles!

The ice was filled with people skating. We saw the ice bikes and they looked fun and manageable. We also saw a group getting a curling lesson and really wanted in on that activity. It was almost too much to take in, but we focused and found our ticket line. It seemed really long, but it went really fast. There was such a steady turnover of skaters that we hardly noticed the wait. I had my skates, but everyone else needed to wait in a second line to get their skates. That line didn’t take long either, thankfully. John zipped over to (716) to put our name on the list again and was told there was a 2 hour wait, which was perfect for us to skate then head over.

 

We all had so much fun on the ice. It was a blast. Some of us hadn’t skated for several years, so we were lucky to stay on our feet the whole time.

Happy Skaters!

Happy Skaters!

 

 

 

 

 

The entry fee and rental fees were very reasonable. I wished we had more time to take the curling lesson and to try the ice bikes. But, just about the time when we were starting to get fatigued, John got the text from (716) that our table was ready. Alyssa was able to get her skates off and sprint over to the restaurant first, to ensure we didn’t lose the table. The rest of us moved as quickly as we could to get there too. And, we were not disappointed. The food was fantastic. I had a house salad with steak on it that was delicious. There is no doubt that we will get back to Canalside on our next visit, and we highly recommend it – even in the winter.

 

Me and John Skating Together, Canalside Buffalo, NY

Me and John Skating Together, Canalside Buffalo, NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canalside Ice Rink at Night Buffalo, NY December 2014

Canalside Ice Rink at Night
Buffalo, NY
December 2014

 

Historical Society Holiday House Tour Was a Hit

Maycroft Elkridge, Maryland

Maycroft
Elkridge, Maryland

I am so glad that I learned about and was able to participate in an annual holiday event in my hometown this past weekend. I am often surprised at the multitude of activities and events that happen virtually right around the corner from me that I don’t hear about until they have passed. So, I’m feeling very happy to be in on this one. My mom and I attended The 38th Annual Howard County Historical Society Holiday House Tour. This tour took a very large group (there were five Eyre buses!) to tour five sites in Elkridge (formerly Elk Ridge), which is the oldest settlement in Howard County. And, interestingly enough, almost where my family and I lived. Apparently we could have had an Elkridge address when we moved into our home; however somehow our neighborhood ended up requesting and getting an Ellicott City address. So, we are very physically close to the sites on this tour, but I had only heard of two of the five beforehand. The tour was wonderful. We checked in at 12:30 PM and were warmly greeted by both the Historical Society and the tour’s main sponsor, The Bob Lucido Team. We had not pre purchased a snack, so we headed straight for the buses. Each bus was following a different itinerary, so as not to overwhelm any one location by our large numbers.


Our first stop was Maycroft. A lovely home with gracious homeowners, who introduced us to the property and its history. It was modernized, but yet still is quite close to the original house. 

Original Stained Glass Maycroft Elkridge, Maryland

Original Stained Glass
Maycroft
Elkridge, Maryland

 

Our next stop was Elkridge Assembly Rooms in the “Lawyers Hill” area of Elkridge. Both my mom and I were impressed by the strong connection to the past family owners and tight-knit nature of the community. This building is undergoing renovation and will continue to be a focal point for neighbors and anyone wishing to join in their seasonal and monthly activities. It even has a website. Visit www.elkridgeassemblyrooms.org to find out more about this warm and welcoming group of friends and neighbors.

Elkridge Assembly Rooms Elkridge, Maryland

Elkridge Assembly Rooms
Elkridge, Maryland

Our third stop was Grace Episcopal Church, which originally sat along the railroad tracks until two fires in the same year led the congregation to move the building to the top of a nearby hill. It is a lovely church with a working pipe organ and a congregation eager to grow its membership.

Grace Episcopal Church Elkridge, Maryland

Grace Episcopal Church
Elkridge, Maryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our fourth stop, Rockburn, another occupied home, dates back to 1695. In the 1980s, the current owners and neighbors established the Rockburn Land Trust and the property was then placed in the Maryland Environmental Trust’s perpetual conservation non-development program, which keeps it and the surrounding area, including Belmont, safe from development. This house once held early Grace Episcopal Church services, and a private school, where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s brother Samuel tutored children. It was so interesting. 

Rockburn Elkridge, Maryland

Rockburn
Elkridge, Maryland

Belmont Elkridge, Maryland

Belmont
Elkridge, Maryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a wonderful day and learned so much.  It was a great way to spend the afternoon, indeed. I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for next year’s tour, for sure!

 

 

 

@HoCoBlogs

Belmont

Belmont

 

 

Taking Time to Enjoy Holiday Happenings

My First (non-artist guided) Painting!

My First (non-artist guided) Painting!

I’m trying to keep myself from the usual adrenaline rush that comes when I think about how close Christmas actually is to today. No matter what day it is after Thanksgiving, I usually find myself in the sprint to Christmas. This year, as in most years, I’m trying to slow it down and take it all in and enjoy it. No sprinting around and not taking time to fully appreciate everything I love about Christmas for me this year. Nope. I’m going to take time to see, smell, taste, and enjoy the season. So, I have been looking for holiday-themed concerts and activities to enhance the jolly in my holiday. My mom had been looking for a holiday activity or two, also. Thanks to a new on-line community events calendar  and the outstanding community building and communication efforts of HoCoBlogs, I was able to hear about a neat holiday event: the Howard County Historical Society 38th Annual Holiday House Tour. It sounds like a very delightful way to spend an afternoon.  Happily, mom agreed. So, we have made plans to go. We can’t wait! The tour takes place Sunday, December 14, 2014 and is an opportunity to see five historic Howard County properties, while traveling comfortably in an Eyre bus. There is still time (but not much!) to get tickets! Visit the Howard County Historical Society’s website for details. Will we see you there? 

 

 

An Honor To Catch Memorial Day Festivities in DC

World War II Memorial

The weather was nice yesterday, but it was supposed to be even better today. John and I decided to go on a bike ride first thing this morning on the Capital Crescent Trail. It was a beautiful day. The trail was filled with fellow cyclists, walkers, and etc. As we eased our way down to the waters edge in Georgetown, I started to think about possibly riding further into DC to see some of the Memorial Day observances.

 

We stopped at the bottom of the trail (in Georgetown), and I mentioned my idea to John. He was interested in seeing what was happening at the war memorials also. So we set off through the city. It was so easy to get around on bicycles. There were several road closures due to the Memorial Day events involving Rolling Thunder. There were so many motorcycles everywhere. They were parked along nearly every street we rode by. Block after block of parked motorcycles, as well as tons of them on the roads. We made it over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, our first stop of the day, to honor my uncle Steve, who was killed in Vietnam. We found his name on the wall. There were so many people who came downtown to honor our fallen veterans. So many were veterans themselves or had family members serving in the military. It was great to see and be a part of.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

We next rode over to the World War II Memorial, which is beautiful and was also filled with folks milling about the awesome structures. After that we could hear the thunderous sounds of the motorcycles parading down Constitution Avenue, so we went back toward the street we came in on to watch the parade. It was impressive. Very impressive, really. You could see the pride and support for our troops from everyone who came to be a part of the festivities.

Watching Rolling Thunder Roll Down Constitution Ave.

We rode back to Georgetown and hopped back on the trail for our ride back to Bethesda. We were quite tired by the time we got to the car, but we were so thrilled we made the extra detour into Washington. It was wonderful to see the memorials and participate in the observances honoring those who died serving our country.

 

Colorful Surprise

 

There are two times of year that are unavoidably busy for parents: Fall and Spring. It doesn't start off that way, necessarily, unless either one or both parents have a job that has increased demands during those times. However, when kids begin going to school and then eventually begin activities or sports, things get exponentially busier. This past Fall, even as Empty Nesters, we were busy. We were steeped in traveling to both kids college soccer games, especially to our Senior daughter's last Division 1 season games. I had a lot of work with my part time jobs. As a result, we had a Fall that was similar to what we had become used to – a very busy one.

This Spring, on the other hand, has not been what we were used to. We travelled very little. We had hoped that our Empty Nest hobby of cycling along Rail Trails would keep us busy. However, the weather has not been cooperating with us to get out as often as we expected. In a nutshell, we have had some spare time. Things were just starting to get busy again with my part time jobs and a little travel when Spring Break/Holy Week started. Things got slow, but luckily I was able to look forward to Alyssa coming home for a quick visit. It seemed like we hadn't seen her in a really long time. So, we missed her, and she said she was ready to be home, too.

We were also excited to have her home for the weekend, as it gave us a chance to do the big “Reveal.” John had been painting her room, as a surprise. She had picked the color out last summer, but with our hectic Fall, there was no time to actually paint. There was plenty of time this semester to get it done. The good news is that she loves the color (still) and the new look of her room. She is happy to have the vestiges of her youth behind her.

Tonight, since I had been missing Alex a lot and Alyssa was here, I texted him about setting up a Skype call. We were happy to catch him at a good time and had a really nice conversation. I loved that we could see him while talking to him. I think this was our first Skype call with him. It went smoothly. So now we have everything set up for our call to him (and a separate call to my sister) on Easter Sunday when Grandma and Grandpa are here.

 

What a Difference a (Snow) Day Makes

Symphony of Lights, Symphony Woods, Howard County, MD

The great thing about that first back to the gym weights workout is the “Yay, I worked out!” pain you feel the next day (and sometimes the day after that one). The not so great thing about when it hurts to walk, sit, stand up, go up and down stairs, brush your hair, and, well, you name it, is that you don't always workout that next day. Today was one of those painful days. I did both a swim practice and a weightlifting class yesterday, which was fantastic. But, today was a snow day, so we had the no-school-no-fitness-class-until-10:45-rule, which meant no swim practice. I managed to get in a workout from lugging Christmas decoration boxes up and downstairs. It was painful, but hopefully I moved enough that I won't be sore (or as sore) tomorrow. It was great to get a jump on taking down the decorations before I got too overwhelmed by what a big undertaking it is. I jumped right in and got as much done as I could. What a great feeling. While I was running around putting Christmas decorations away, I noticed we had a couple of birds checking out our bird feeder. Hurrah! They were camera or people shy, so I had a tough time getting a picture. Finally, I got smart and set the camera up and then walked away until one of the birds flew back to the feeder. Then, I snuck over to the camera and started clicking away. I got a couple of cute shots, I think…well, considering I was using an iPhone 4 perched on my window sill.

Bird at my Bird Feeder

Well, tonight marked the first time in years (or ever) that we didn't have a full car, SUV, or van to drive through the Symphony of Lights holiday lights display in Symphony Woods. It was just John and me. Normally, we have the kids and my mom, and we go before Christmas. Tonight it was just us. We were delighted to see the lights with a snowy backdrop. It was very nice this year. We think they added more light displays. We enjoyed it, although we did miss making it a family affair.