Rolling forward on Route 6

After leaving the Canyon it was time to check out the towns on Route 6… starting with Wellsboro and heading to Mansfield.  Unfortunately for a Sunday evening most things were closed. ..

We checked  into our very petite and very cheap room at the Microtel Inn in Mansfield… my error in not taking a picture of just how small this one bed hotel room is for there is none on the site.   Think room in NYC!   However, at that price I wish more hotels would choose this option.  Clean, comfortable and good service.  For the budget traveler I highly recommend checking it out.

We ended our day at Yorkholo Brewery –  ok local brewery serving delicious food

We usually do not end a night when travelling at 8 but without much else to do we headed back to our micro room for the night.

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Doing the Loop: Apache Trail

On our past trip to Arizona we had read about the Apache Trail but it was the wrong direction to where we were headed (Sedona).  On this trip we decided to squish this in on and drive the loop on our last full day.

It takes close to 45 minutes to just get to the start of the Apache Trail from Scottsdale. When you do reach the Apache Trail, it is an amazing drive with the most incredible scenery and natural formations.  On the chilly day that we went,  there was light snow on the ground and snow capped Superstition Mountain up above. We took so many incredible pictures that day.– Without question it was the best scenery we saw on our trip.  I had found this guide to use which was a great help for there are not a lot of signs along the way to describe what you are seeing.

Out on the LedgeWe made several short stops –  especially enjoyed stop right before FishCreek Hill.  A paved path takes you out to the edge and we then followed a dirt path out even further to look over the Canyon.  It was really incredible.

However my words of advice for fellow travelers —  You need a full day to devote to this if you want to do  and truly enjoy the entire loop.  And be sure to include a nice hike at Lost Dutchman State Park or a boat ride ( I read there is a great one) to breakup the drive. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy along the way at one of the stops. Between the time to get there and back and to do the loop can be very tiring for the driver. I wish we had made one long stop and turned around partway through.  Nevertheless, it still was a spectacular drive well worth seeing.

Hot Chocolate in the Desert

On December 30 we boarded the plane leaving behind mild winter temperatures in our otherwise usually frigid mid Atlantic region to enter similar, if not cooler at times, temperatures in the Arizona desert. This certainly was not we paid inflated airfare prices for but we were happy to arrive with sunny skies.

I was led to believe that our room at The Phoenician  would be ready for an early arrival. It was not and it was hardly warm enough to stay at the resort and swim. (However the pool was filled for unbeknownst to us this would be the warmest it would get.) We decided to explore offsite and have lunch.

We  drove to St Francis – a place I had wanted to visit  and enjoyed a delightful meal sitting outside under heat lamps trying to pretend in our mind as we stared at the sand and cactus landscape eating unique southwestern dishes like flatbread with chilis, honey and almonds that it was indeed very warm outside. Heat Lamps can lead one to such a belief.

We returned and walked the beautiful resort property until our room was ready. Unfortunately our misfortune would continue by being given a room that did not match the category description. The hotel did correct the issue and put us in a Grande Deluxe Room – and it was very grande!

Of all the beautiful features at the Phoenician, one of our favorites was the Cactus Garden. It was lit up with Christmas lights.  We layered on clothes that we thought would remain in the closet during our stay.  With scarves and hats and coats on we ventured through winding and colorfully lit up trail.  Cactus with Christmas lights in the desert when it is 30 degrees. Juxtaposition indeed (and a reoccurring theme during our stay).

Dashing through the snow in a …

Oh wait.  Wrong Holiday.  It was Thanksgiving Day – 2014.  And the snow had fallen the previous day and shut down Skyline Drive…. the only way in to our Thanksgiving Feast at Skyland Resort.

As we drove from our home to Shenandoah National Park, we were unsure where we would be eating our Thanksgiving Meal.  At 7:00 Am Skyland Drive remained closed.  I entered the # on speed dial (thankful for cell phones).   We decided we would keep calling and would not give up hope until we hit the entrance gate.  As we traveled out of Pennsylvania – a call was made. Road Closed.  Through Maryland – Road Closed. I called the lodge and asked for an alternative road or if they could send down some snowmobiles (I was told this was not Yellowstone.)    Through West Virginia we travelled – Road Close.  Entered Virginia – Road Closed…  I instead this time decided to call the restaurant.  It was hard to believe there was not some sort of access road to get us to Skyland Resort.  We were asked if wanted to cancel… but where else would we eat?  No way.  We were holding out.  With less then one hour to go, leaving the highway and diverting from our final destination… the message had changed.  I had to listen again just to believe it.. Road open form Thorton Gap to Skyland Lodge!   One way in and one way out.  It would mean backtracking to reach our final destination but that did not matter!  We were in!  Thanksgiving Day was saved!

And oh what a magical ride it was up the mountain. Tree tops glistening with snow.  Deer prancing through the forest.  Icicles suspended from rocks. As we climbed to the highest point of the mountain, it was easy to see why this road was shut down.  Snow was several inches deep.    The temperature plummeted from high thirties to match the date…

As we entered the lodge, we were seated at the best table – with a view overlooking the snow covered mountain down to the valley below.  We enjoyed a feast – what a wonderful meal!

A Thanksgiving hike was planned to burn off the calories but that was unfortunately not going to happen… but there were still pullovers to stop enjoy!   As we descended the mountain, the snow began to fall again but this did not stop us from stopping at each pullover to enjoy the view.  By the last pullover it became one big blur as the snow began to come down steadily.   We departed Shenandoah National Park stuffed and oh so happy. It was surely a Thanksgiving that we will never forget!

View from Atop the Mountain

RVA Here We Are!

What a long drive! Did not arrive until close to midnight so we slept in this morning…  This was easy to do even in a second floor room – we were amazed just how quiet the city streets were on a Friday. After leaving the hotel, we quickly realized we were in a bit of a dead zone – no government building, no office building, only one other hotel, and very few buildings that contained some sort of business.  It was impossible to find a cup of coffee and a bakery item.  There are so many neat neighborhoods that I learned about from a cousin who lives in the area… but the hotel is not in one of them!  We stopped at my usual first and favorite stop – The Visitors Center – for a map.  Amazing help in planning out our short time.  We decided to follow the Liberty Trail – something they are just starting and it is really neat.  Check it out here: http://www.visitrichmondva.com/things-to-do/local-tours/liberty-trail/

We diverted off the trail to go up to the Observation Deck in City Hall (thanks to the tip from our helpful Visitor Center guide)!  It was really neat to get a bird’s eye view of the city. (Picture is taken from up there.)

One of our historical stops was a visit to the Museum and White House of the Confederacy.  This included a guided tour of the house by a great tour guide.  He really knew his stuff!  Museum had a lot of neat stuff – we liked the downstairs full of oddities – like this doll that

was use2014-08-15 13.50.42d to smuggle medicine.   We then followed the trail to the Virginia State Capital and Executive Mansion.  We were amazed to be the only people wandering around!

After a day of history, we decided to finish by wandering down the huge hill all the way to the Canal.  Shockhoe Slip neighborhood is super neat with lots of shops, people, and places to eat, and try out the local beer.    Southern Railway Taphouse was the just the right spot — Relaxed environment – not yet crowded so we were able to sit at a high top with our daughter.  Great deals on lunch and beer for it was happy hour! (Service not so great but that did not matter for did not mind the wait)

Not much to do around the hotel so we enjoyed an evening swim. There was one neat spot – Pasture – had some good local beers and food (boiled peanut hummus – yum!) to eat!

BobCate Cafe: The Perfect Ending to our Brew Adventure

We drove up to Bristol Vt for one last place to check out for we had read on Beer Advocate that it had great beer. We had no idea just how good the food was and that to get a table was reservation only! What a great little mountain town! I felt like I was back out West. This would be a great base camp for a future trip to explore North Vermont Breweries. I even had the chance to meet a nice couple who were originally from my hometown state who owned a campground in the area.

I started with Saison De Cassis – mixed into this great beer is Vermont Blackcurrants! It was delicious! And then finished my evening with a Unrepentant Stout. The chocolate and dark coffee definitely come out in this beer and it was perfect ending to a great day!

Next Stop on Route 7: Otter Creek!

Otter Creek BrewingI’ve been a long time fan of Wolaver’s Wildflower Wheat – for me the perfect summer session beer in the middle of a humid afternoon – and so seeing where it is produced was a must stop on our Brewery tour. The Otter Creek Brewing Company is a great brew pub serving all three of their beers with big windows where you can look out at all the shiny tanks producing beer. Although we are familiar with both Otter Creek and Wolaver’s we had not had The Shed, a small Vermont Brewery acquired by Otter Creek. The Shed Mountain Ale was good. Also tried the Wolaver’s Brown Ale and jumped ahead to the fall season and had a Wolaver’s Pumpkin.
Sometime they even offer special test batch one day of the week (not the day we were there). Regardless – this is a great stop to enjoy a few beers low in ABV, have a nice chat with bartenders who know beer, and enjoy some good local food — but get there early. They shut down in the early evening so that the local bars get the spotlight and can make the money selling their beers.

Foley Brothers

This great new brewery (two years) is just off Route 7 in Brandon VT and was a perfect place to begin our Central Vermont Brew Tour.

Award for the best welcoming party at any brewery… Riley how did I miss getting a picture of you? Wonderful dog who greets you with hugs and kisses.

Award for the most scenic and relaxing brewery location.. enjoyed sipping our pint of Old Hob (an AltBier) outside on the property.

What we tried – a tasting of four beers (which comes with a beautiful beer glass):  Ginger Wheat / Native Brown / Old Hob / Fair Maiden

They sell either large bottles or growlers. We chose a large bottle of Native Brown (made with Maple Syrup) to bring home and enjoy at a later time.