Thursday, April 22, 2010

Trip to New York - Birthday Edition

We just got back from seeing my parents in NY. The big ocassion was, of course, my Dad's birthday. Some say spending 3 days on the road just to visit for a day and a half is a bit crazy. To them I say that Yuri Gagarin spent years preparing for his historic 108-minute space flight. Accidentally, my Dad's name is also Yuri.

Anyway, the drive there was uneventful since we took I-95. It went something like this - picking up speed... slowing down - state police... stopping to gas up and get some coffee... slowing down - traffic in DC... stopping - traffic between DC and Baltimore... picking up speed... slowing down - MD police... slowing down and stopping - the Maryland House (a foul-smelling rest stop) and on and on. Add to that the fact that M. was recovering from a cold and you get a pretty good picture.
The stay at my parents' house was, on the other hand, excellent (the key is to keep it short and sweet). We all celebrated Dad's birthday and, of course, M. got some presents (yeah, it's good to be the only grandchild). Except, of course, that Chris caught M's cold and was sneezing and sniffling and looking so pitiful and contagious, that we finally isolated him in the tiny bedroom (ok, both bedrooms in the house are tiny) and fed him yummy food and gave him brandy for medicinal purposes. Mom also made sure to force Chris to ingest countless cups of herbal tea, handfuls of homeopathic pills and rivers of beet juice (oh, and this later one had to be ingested through the nose - no kidding!).

Then we loaded up for the way back, this time not so much with food, but with tomato plants and herbs for our garden. We bid goodbye to my parents and drove straight to Rockland Bakery. Yeah, you know it's a major pilgrimage spot for Chris! As a matter of fact, I suspect a tasting tour and a shopping spree at this Bakery is one of the reasons he loves visiting my folks (the other one being all the wonderful Russian chocolate Mom stashes just for her favorite son-in-law).
For the way back we decided to ditch I-95 and take the good old I-81 instead. This meant a 2-day return trip with a stop-over somewhere in MD. Well, let me tell you - I take I-81 over the stupid I-95 any day, even if it would mean 3 days on the road. And honestly, I-81 is so super-awesome that it can easily take 3, 5 or even 7 days to get from NY to NC. The traffic is generally light compared to I-95 and there are so many things to see!

It doesn't go through any major cities, but instead goes by lots and lots of small towns. That's how we found Hagerstown, MD last year. Then there's also Winchester and Port Royal, both in VA and lots of others. And there are so many attractions along the way. I don't even count Hershey, PA or a Crayola factory. There's Antietam Battlefield, lots of historic George-Washington-been-here places, Luray Caverns, the Natural Bridge, etc, etc.
This time around we stopped at the Roadside America - the greatest miniature town, in the world! It is so awesome - all those miniature houses, cars, people, animals, a circus, a hot air balloon, a coal mine, an ice-cream parlor, a nostalgic-looking Main Street, and lots and lots of miniature trains running in circles through it all. And did I mention lots of buttons for the little kids (in all of us) to push to make things move?! Naturally, we spent a bit more time there than we intended to. But we still made it all the way to Winchester, VA.
The next day we went for a short drive through the Northern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, from Port Royal to Thurnton Gap. Let me tell you, there are no tolls on I-81. But whatever you save in toll money, you end up spending on attractions. So we were very happy to find out that it was some kind of Take Your Family to a National Park week and we got to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway for free (a $15 value). Hooray!

Then we went to the town of Staunton, VA to see a place called Frontier Culture Museum. I found out about when I leafed through the tourist brochures at The Maryland House (tip - second floor bathrooms are clean, smell ok, have family restrooms, and are largely unused because the elevator's always broken and noone wants to use the stairs). Ok, back to this museum - it's AWESOME! We spent close to 2 hours there and loved every minute of it! M simply refused to leave. He thought we would stay there for at least a few days, if not move in outright. After all, there were lambs to pet, piglets to feed, chickens to chase, sticks to pick off the ground and make into pretend rifles, and a big red wagon! Oh, and the smith made a nail and there was a cat sleeping by the warm fireplace in the Irish house and a loom to explore and a well with puddles of water all around it and... well, you get the picture, right?

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