Sunday, July 27, 2014

So There We Were…

headed north on I-81 from Wytheville, VA to Gettysburg, PA. Do you know that in the span of about fifty miles you are in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania?

Chuck is driving and I am sitting with the map on my lap. Suddenly I exclaim “Do you know how close to Carlisle Gettysburg is?” And why is that important? Because Chuck’s cousin Pat and her husband live in Carlisle.
Kate, Pat, and Henry

Chuck, Pat, and Henry

So we made a point to drive up the road for a great visit and an equally great lunch at Pat and Henry’s. And we came away with a restaurant recommendation—The Springhouse Tavern at the historic Dobbins House. And does this place have history!

“Here’s the story of a man named Dobbin: an educated Irish-born immigrant who left behind everything but his wife, Isabella, and voyaged to the New World…. Reverend Alexander Dobbin acquired 300 acres of land in Gettysburg and, ‘four score and seven years’ before the Gettysburg Address, erected the home that would be his family’s Gettysburg address. The house wasn’t small, and neither was his family; his wife bore him ten children before her death and he remarried to a widow with nine children of her own. The Brady Bunch had nothing on them!

“Dobbin built his house to be more than just a dwelling; it was the culmination of his dream to establish a Classical School, the first to open its doors west of the Susquehanna River…. Over the years, the house continued to contribute to the pages of history. In the time of the Underground Railroad…a clandestine crawl space sheltered the runaway slaves who risked it all for their freedom. When Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, the residents of the house could have watched him from the balcony. And, in the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, the house became a hospital, where Union and Confederate soldiers were treated with equal care.

“Dobbin House is the oldest structure in Gettysburg still standing…. Restoration has allowed it to maintain its original beauty and great effort has been made to keep its furnishings and d├ęcor authentic…” (gettysburgbattlefieldtours.com).
The Dobbin House is built in the Georgian style with local stone and distinctive features, e.g., windows with double hung sashes, row of small windows above the front door, and a paneled door.
It features seven fireplaces, and hand carved woodwork that has been restored to its original 18th century grandeur. (activerain.trulia.com).

“The ghost of Alexander Dobbin…is still seen around the house smoking a cigar. People believe that the slaves who came to this house never really left. Apparitions of slaves have been spotted through out the house, even in the hiding places. It is believed that the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg haunt the Inn. Guests and employees of the Inn have spotted mysterious, reoccurring blood stains on the floor boards” (waymarking.com).
“The modern-day Dobbin House serves guests in two separate dining facilities. Downstairs, the Springhouse Tavern serves the more casual guests in an authentic old tavern atmosphere. The entrance to the Springhouse Tavern is tucked between the main building…and gift shop…. As you open the door between the thick log and stone slab walls, it's immediately apparent it's going to be a journey through history.
"Entering, you descend a staircase that takes you into a dark, candlelit dining area with a large wooden bar…and the setting makes you feel like you've stepped 200 years back in time” (foodidude.com).
It is not uncommon in historic areas of Pennsylvania to find the menu using language and/or spelling from times-gone-by. So you will find Spinache Sallade, a Gill (equivalent of a quarter pint) of Porridge, Mrs. Penn's Cheesecake Receipt, Hot Adams Apple Pye, and Sparkling Cyder.

But we went with more straightforwardly names menu items. For Chuck it was the Dobbins Hot Beef Sandwich which was not, as the name might suggest, an open-faced sandwich on white bread and covered with gravy and served with mashed potatoes. Instead, it was the Tavern’s rendition of the French Dip served on a round hearth baked roll.
The sandwich contained a good amount of thin sliced beef but the real attraction was the cup of excellent cooking juices for dipping. From the choice of potato sallade, cole slaw, or potato chips, he selected the poato sallade which was slightly sweet and, I suspect, influenced by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the area.

Not having eaten an East Coast-style crab cake in six years, my choice was the Maryland Colony Crab Cake Sandwich served on toasted French bread with Dijon balsamic mayo, lettuce, and tomato.
As you can see from the photo, there was a good amount of lump crab in the cake and there was a minimum of bread filler. And, of course, it was seasoned with Old Bay. My side choice was the cole slaw, which, like Chuck’s potato salad (or sallade), was somewhat sweet.

Our thanks to Pat and Henry for recommending this interesting and historical restaurant which earns 4.5 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

*****************
The Wanderers' Future

We left Pennsylvania in 2008 with plans to be on the road full-time for at least three years and maybe five. We have completed a little over six years of traveling and have enjoyed seeing many parts of the country, meeting many people, learning about different cultures, and eating at several excellent neighborhood joints across the country.

Our blog began a journal of our travels for our review, but we have been very pleased and surprised by the number of people who have written or talked to us about places we've written about. We have recorded nearly 2100 blog entries, posted between 25,000-30,000 photographs, and have had over 211,000 page views as of today. We have had two accidents, five breakdowns on the road (three flat tires and two engine problems), and two surgeries (Kate in Albuquerque, Chuck in Lafayette, LA).

For having no experience with RVing, we have had a surprisingly successful time navigating the highways (both major and blue ones) of the country and have learned a number of new "household" skills.

But we have reached a point where I (Chuck) would like to become part of a community again, and Kate would like to return to a "real" kitchen. We have had a tenant living in our home for the past six years, and their lease is up, so we are back in Pennsylvania to sell our home and move to Lafayette, LA. Our settlement date is in August, and for the next few weeks, we will be wrapping up our affairs here and making preparations for the move. We do not have a definite move-in date in Lafayette as yet, so until that time we will continue to live in our home on wheels. Until we begin our drive south, we will be writing on a limited schedule (possibly once a week).

To our relatives and friends, we feel very fortunate to have been welcomed so warmly on our visits and hope that our arrivals have not disrupted your daily routines. We have been fortunate to have been present for some family holiday and special birthday celebrations. They have meant so much to both of us.

To our new friends we have met along the way, you have made our travels so much more enjoyable than you can ever realize. We look forward to continuing many of these friendships following our move.

To all, you have made travel so much more meaningful. Seeing different parts of the country is not as important as experiencing parts of the country. And it is you who have made travel so much fun. Thank you and keep checking in every now and then. We plan to keep the RV and make two or three 4-week trips a year. We can't completely settle down yet. Till we write again.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Three Days in July

We planned to spend the greater part of a day touring Gettysburg National Military Park and quickly learned that to do the visit justice, we would need nearly three days. Just a leisurely walk around the Museum store could easily take an hour.

We had decided on the self-guided auto tour, but when we read: "The 24-mile auto tour...weaves through the town and battlefield. More than 60 percent of the buildings from the time of the battle are still standing, and nearly 1,400 monuments and memorials dot the landscape," we decided to change our plans.
Our "un-guided" drive began with stops at some of the state monuments.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Monument, the largest monument on the battlefield

1st Minnesota Infantry

In the early portion of the drive, our focus was on the monuments and memorials along the route.


However, our orientation seemed to change soon after the drive had begun.
There was a lessening of interest on the monuments and an increase in the landscape.
The pastoral quality was in stark contrast to the events that took place July 1-3, 1863.
We began to see the landscape as a "monument". The more of the route we covered, the greater the impact of the peacefulness became.
We missed the details of the strategies and major battles of the Battle of Gettysburg, but in a way the silence of the hills carried a strong message.


"For three days, more than 150,000 soldiers clashed in a series of Confederate assaults and Union defenses. The days of fighting took a horrible toll on both sides, 10,000 soldiers killed or mortally wounded, 30,000 injured, and 10,000 captured or missing.
"The dead were hastily buried in shallow graves on the battlefield, crudely identified by pencil writing on wooden boards. Rain and wind began eroding the impromptu graves, and Gettysburg’s citizens called for the creation of a soldiers’ cemetery for the proper burial of the Union dead.
An appropriate site for the cemetery was selected for the interment of Union remains. At the cemetery’s dedication on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln rose to deliver “a few appropriate remarks."
"Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate we cannot consecrate we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth.

The Soldiers National Monument, dedicated on July 1, 1869, in the National Cemetery, stands near the location where Lincoln spoke.
The monument stands as a national monument to sorrow. Marble statues around the base of the monument represent History, War, Peace and Plenty. The figure of the Genius of Liberty tops the monument (gettysburg.stonesentinels.com/Other/Soldiers).

Lincoln was the second speaker at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery. He was preceded on the podium by the famed orator Edward Everett, who spoke to the crowd for two hours. Lincoln followed with his now immortal Gettysburg Address. On November 20, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
Located on Oak Hill overlooking the Gettysburg National Military Park is the nation’s premier monument to national reconciliation after the Civil War—the Eternal Light Peace Memorial.
The inscription on the monument reads: An Enduring Light to Guide Us in Unity and Fellowship.

Friday, July 25, 2014

No Trip to the Galax Area…

would be complete without a visit to the Galax Smokehouse for some really fine barbecue. We knew that they had really fine food, but we didn’t know that they had multiple ghosts.
“Its official: The Galax (VA) Smokehouse has become a popular hangout for many people in the community—perhaps even those who are no longer with us. Restaurant co-owner and operator Dan Milby confirmed that the downtown Galax business will be featured…on a new episode of “My Ghost Story: Caught on Camera,” a paranormal series on the Biography Channel. The episode will chronicle an investigation of the restaurant that was conducted…by local ghost-hunting team Operation Spirit Seekers. Ghost hunter Rachel McBride confirmed that the episode will show documented evidence that multiple paranormal entities were found inside of the establishment.

“’We have voice recordings of a man and a woman talking to us and answering questions, we have video footage of different events happening, and we took photos of different apparitions and orbs and things of that nature,’ she told The Gazette….

“The barbecue restaurant at the corner of Main and Grayson streets is in one the city’s oldest buildings, originally Bolen’s Drug Store, that dates back to Galax’s founding in 1906. It also housed a doctor’s office and soda fountain in the past” (Shaina Stockton at galaxgazette.com).
But it is no ghostly pitmaster who is responsible for the continuing success of this restaurant that opened in February 2003. No. Credit goes to co-owners Dan Milby and Ron Passmore. “…In their first year, the owners submitted the restaurant to be judged by the National Barbecue News, an organization that finds the top spots for barbecue all over the nation. ‘We didn't think we would win, but judges provide a critique for improvement, as well, and that's what we wanted,’ said Passmore.
“One day, they got a call that was completely unexpected. On the other line was Kell Phelps, the National Barbecue News publisher, calling to congratulate them. ‘You could have knocked me over with a feather,’ he said. ‘I never would have believed that we could have made it on our first year.’ Since then, the restaurant has been featured in the publication every year. And since the judging is anonymous…. Passmore said that it was a testament to their consistent quality of customer service. It also says a lot about the quality of their food” (Shaina Stockton at galaxscrapbook.com).
And its not just professional judges who appreciate the Smokehouse’s barbecue. Adam Bobbitt at roadfood.com wrote: “I have eaten many BBQ restaurants throughout the South, claiming to have the best ‘Southern’ BBQ anywhere. I have to say the Galax Smoke-house is by far the best I have ever eaten. I was a truck driver for 10 years and have eaten BBQ from almost every state. None comes close to the unique flavor the Galax Smoke house has perfected! ...Though the meats are so delicious they don't need sauces to ‘make them better’, the made from scratch BBQ sauce recipes compliment the meats… With four BBQ sauce flavors to choose from you will surely find one that will make your taste buds happy!”
We were both hungry and ready to pig out. And Chuck took it literally and ordered one of the “Pig Out Platters” with two meats (in his case pulled pork and chicken), hush puppies, corn nuggets, and two sides.
The pork was the chopped variety that I associate with North Carolina barbecue, and while I prefer pulled to chopped, this was still quite moist and really didn’t need any one of the Smokehouse’s acclaimed sauces. At first he thought that the chicken was dry but his first bite was from the pointy end of the chicken breast. This is a piece that I always cut off (along with the ribs) and save for stock later. Once he got to the thicker breast meat it was also nice and moist.
I ordered the half-pound of boneless tips cut from spare ribs that were soaked in the sweet barbecue sauce. These were very lean which is good since I really can’t stand fatty meat (other than pastrami).
But one of our favorite things about the Galax Smokehouse is the excellence of their side dishes. From a list that included BBQ beans, green beans, house salad, potato salad, fried potatoes, hush puppies, corn nuggets, cole slaw, apple, and smoked mashed potatoes, we selected the BBQ beans, cole slaw, corn nuggets, and smoked mashed potatoes.

The slaw was finely chopped and not shredded as we like but was still cold and crisp and tossed with a light, creamy, and slightly sweet dressing. The BBQ beans were “Southern sweet” from molasses and contained bits of pork. The smoked mashed potatoes were lightly smoked so that you could still taste potato.

But the hit of the sides were the corn nuggets. Think of a very thick creamed corn mixture that is somehow formed into balls and then rolled in crumbs and deep fat fried. These would be great bar food with a pitcher of beer.
Both of us left thinking that all that was missing was a ghostly apparition and award Galax Smokehouse 4.5 Addies.

To review the role of Adler and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Slow and Tired

I'm not sure who or what is slower tonight--me or the computer, but I know I'm beat. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Miss and A Hit

We had discovered the center (in our opinion) of old-time music in the small towns of western Virginia when we traveled The Crooked Road nearly six years ago.

We had checked the schedule of events for Galax, VA, and found that a Fourth of July Parade was going to be held at 4:00. We thought that was a bit late for a parade, but since there were two separate citations of the time, we thought that the parade was a prelude to the evening's fireworks.

We arrived in town a couple of hours early only to find traffic being routed around the center of town. We parked a couple of blocks away from Main Street with a crowd in sight. We found a viewing space...and watched the last few entries pass by.

Clearly, we had missed the parade, but it was also clear that a significant percentage of the town's 7,000 residents had watched the entire parade.
After the final entries had passed, we took a break for lunch.

Following the meal in downtown Galax, we returned to the scene of the parade. To our surprise, the street seemed deserted.


It seemed everyone but us knew the schedule. We left Galax.

The next day we headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway, crossing New River along the way.

The Blue Ridge Music Center is located at Milepost 213 of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Galax. The Center is a magnificent venue for the performance of old time mountain music of Virginia and North Carolina and is largely concerned with local artists who best show this history, and not with "stars".
It was a gorgeous evening and the two local bands performing that evening were ones that we had come to appreciate on earlier visits to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Kate had searched for a calendar events for the Galax area and found the appearance of these two bands. (Whitetop Mountain Band is another of our favorites.)
"Mountain Park Old Time Band was formed six years ago as a group of friends who happened to enjoy Old Time Music got together to have a good time. The band performs at the Carter Fold several times a year. They have been featured on All Things Considered on NPR for playing at the second longest radio show in the country on WPAQ.
"They have opened for the Bluegrass super group Blue Highway as well as opened for the Carolina Chocolate Drops. They have been the winners of Instrumental Group of the year at the Blue Ridge Uprising in 2013.

"Mountain Park Old Time Band is known for their dance music whether it be square dance, flat foot, clogging, two step, or Waltz. More than anything, they have a great time and it shows in their performance" (mountainparkoldtimeband.com/band_bio).
Several audience members joined in the flat footin' dancing, many of who brought their own 3' x 3' boards to dance on.
The second band that evening was The New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters. About 25 years ago a group of musicians from the Galax, VA area formed a new band. The New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters took their name from the original Bogtrotters of the 1930's in part because band leader Dennis Hall lives on Ballards Branch.

We had learned that once the sun sets the temperature in the mountains drops significantly. So the evening ended with the non-dancers in the audience in jackets, the dancers easily keeping warm, and both bands playing a couple of selections, including "Cumberland Gap".
Old-time music performed by people who have lived with this music all their lives and enjoyed in this setting made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.