Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Well, I made it. I walked 100 miles (a tad over) in 100 days even after lazing along for the first 50 days and finding myself 15 miles behind. By week eleven I got serious and walked 10-12 miles a week for the last month. Over the weekend on our camping trip Larry and I walked six miles (and biked five on the C & O Canal path) including four on the cornfield trail at Antietam. 

Today is the last day of the challenge and I have a mile to spare. Whew! But if a miss is as good as a mile, a hit is as good as a bullseye, at least in this case.

During the miserable plus 90 degree days I walked in my family room under the ceiling fan with Leslie Sansone and her chirpy pep talks. I used weights and  "firm bands" to get the benefit of some upper body strengthening too. Now...if I can just keep the walking up without the challenge. We'll see. I hope I don't fall back into my sluggish ways. But today I'm celebrating the success of finishing the 100 miles and enjoying some beautiful walks and hikes while I did it.

I can wear my T-shirt without guilt when it arrives! And even if I fall back into my lazy ways, there's always next year to get me back on track.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

St. Joseph's in Martinsburg where Jesus lives in a Closet

It never ceases to amaze me to find ordained ministers who treat Jesus as though they are ashamed of Him. How else to explain the appalling reality of Our Savior being shuffled off into a back corner in the church, a renovated closet that calls itself a "Eucharistic chapel." But I'm getting ahead of myself.

St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Martinsburg, WV is beautiful from the outside. I wish I had looked for the cornerstone because it is obviously an old church. And it has some lovely statues on the grounds including a beautiful one of Mary. We were pleasantly surprised to find it unlocked when we stopped to make a visit. (If I'm on foot, I rarely pass a Catholic Church without stopping to say hello to Jesus.)

As soon as we got inside the church we could see that Jesus wasn't home and that his house had been got at by the church wreckers. It sported all the earmarks of the 70s and 80s ruination: the baptismal hot tub, an altar that had been moved, in this case to the side - very bizarre. But see for yourself.

Below is the view from the back of the church. The altar has been moved from its natural location at the front of the church to the right side between the windows with an artificial back wall. Where the altar used to be are rows of movable chairs. The arrangment is such that most worshipers are viewing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass from the side and are facing each other rather than Christ.  But even those facing the altar receive a distorted view. The crucifix is off to the left as though to say, "Jesus death on the cross has no place at the center of our faith. It's simply off to the side." 

And where is Jesus in His Real Presence? We had to go looking for him. But we found a clue in the vestibule pointing to the little closet where He was hidden away as though an embarrassment. And it did, indeed, appear to be a made over closet. But See for yourself.

Below is the view of the "chapel" from the doorway. Would you call this a worthy place for the Lord of the Universe? Does it lift the minds and hearts of those who come to pray? We stayed and offered prayers of reparation and apologized to Jesus for the way He is being treated at this church. Note in the second picture below, the ladder on the left side of the room that apparently leads to a storage attic. Can there be any doubt that this "chapel" was once a back closet? Not in my mind.


A number of years ago, Mike Rose wrote a book called Ugly as Sin about the horrible churches being built. St. Joseph's is one that is beautiful on the outside but, like the sepulchre, is filled with dead men's bones. It's hard to imagine that this is a good parish where Jesus is treated with such disrespect. I wonder if anyone ever bothers to visit him? Certainly not many; there's no room for them. And, in fact, there is no room for Jesus in the main church but there's room for a piano and a set of drums, musical instruments that should not be used for the Mass. But one consolation, there's a beautiful statue of Mary outside the Church. It would be funny if it weren't so sad: Jesus in the closet and Mary in the yard. Pray for a restoration of our churches and the rightful place of our Lord and Our Blessed Mother at the center of our faith.

Shakedown Campout to Williamsport, Martinsburg, and Antietam

Every year at the start of camping season we take a short, shakedown campout to make sure everything is working and in good order. Usually we do this in early spring, but this year we've been delayed by one thing and another. We finally made it out the driveway pulling our Trailmanor, hard-sided popup on a short trip to Williamsport, MD's KOA arriving Thursday afternoon.

The KOA is lovely with an extensive garden and a great location along a creek with lots of shade trees. We got a lovely, level pull-through site that made set up a breeze.

We didn't check the camper at home and I was afraid we would open up to find mouse droppings or other nasty surprises, but happily all was well. The camper was as we left it when we closed it in October except for a some leaves and acorns and a few dead bugs. Everything worked when we turned it on including the air conditioner, thank God, because the temps were in the 90s. Our campsite was shady in the morning, but got the afternoon sun and would have been hot and uncomfortable without the AC. How spoiled we are!

After registering and setting up, we headed out to Williamsport on an exploratory adventure along the C and O canal where we walked two miles and visited lock 44. (You can read about that and our visit to Martinsburg here.... )

Then off to the Hagerstown Outlet Mall. I have enough junk at my house to maintain a thrift store for at least a month, but I needed some decent glasses. I hosted my book club this week and had a hard time putting out six that match. I know, I doesn't matter, but it is a little thing with an easy fix. (Actually, the ones I was replacing were purchased at a thrift store. The standing joke in our family is that our house is furnished in early yard sale.) But after a visit to one of the kitchen stores at the mall, I now have ten MATCHING glasses, a real first.

The campground was very quiet on Thursday night and I had determined to sleep until I was ready to get up to play catchup after several bad nights and 2:00 a.m Eucharistic Adoration. So Friday morning I slept in and got up about 9:30, something I haven't done since last camping season. Larry was up about an hour before me and very graciously let me sleep. After breakfast we headed out to explore Martinsburg and Antietam.

Martinsburg is charming. We visited the childhood home of Confederate spy Belle Boyd, the railroad station including a 19th century roundhouse, and we admired the wide range of architecture in this town that was founded in the 1750s.  We had a wonderful lunch at a little Italian bistro. Check out my restaurant review.

After we finished exploring Martinsburg, we headed out to Antietam, the site of the bloodiest single day of conflict during the Civil War. Other battles had more casualties, but they were fought over several days. Walking the battlefield we prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for all the poor souls who died there.

Our day ended back at the camper with a late dinner and a walk in the KOA gardens.

Saturday morning started out with cold showers (actually frigid!) because there was no hot water...not a good advertisement for any campground. I stood at the edge of the shower and washed gingerly. Larry said he took the plunge -- not me...I'm no polar bear!

We went back to Williamsport to look for a bike rental place and found one a few blocks from the canal path. Since we had to be out of our campsite by 1:00 p.m. we only had about an hour and took a leisurely five-mile bike ride. At one spot where the woods opened up to the Potomac river we saw a herd of deer on the farther bank drinking. There must have been a dozen. What a sight! It was a delightful way to end our trip.

We're home and unpacked and already looking forward to another short getaway which seems to be all we can manage these days, but they're as refreshing as a twenty minute nap or a brisk ten minute walk!

Casa Visone in Martinsburg: A Treat for the Palate

Whenever Larry and I visit a place our first stop is usually the Visitor's Center. A mandatory question is always: "Where's the best place in town to eat?" Right across the street was the answer. But while we walked around town we passed an Irish Pub. It was Friday and fish and chips is always good Friday fare for those who keep the traditional Catholic abstinence. So after visiting a few of the local sites, we headed back to the pub. But it was closed so we retraced our steps to Casa Visone. I'm glad we did.

The restaurant is small and cozy with tables lining both walls only interrupted by a small bar on one side. Since we arrived at 1:40 (They close at 2:00.) we were the only ones there, but were joined a few minutes later by a couple on their way to Ithaca, NY to visit their son. They are also retired and live in the Highlands of the Shenandoah Valley, where her husband bought a farm after retiring and raises cattle.

Visiting with other patrons seemed natural in this family-friendly setting. One wall is decorated with a large banner showing the Visone family crest and the opposite wall is covered with black and white family photos and banners depicting various provinces in Italy. Very attractive. Eva, half of the owner couple was behind the bar; the other half, husband and chef Francesco, manned the kitchen. The lunch menu offered four choices after eliminating all the meat dishes. I was tempted by the "fresh raviola in pink sauce" but we had decided to go with a salad and a shared main dish so we compromised with "Spaghettini con Funghi" (translated spaghettini with mushrooms in tomato basil sauce). Larry ordered the caesar salad and I chose "insalata caprese" which is tomatoes and basil with fresh mozzarella.

My dad always said you can judge a restaurant by its bread and Casa Visone's is delicious. We each ate several pieces while we waited for our salads. A container of olive oil mixed with herbs was the perfect accompaniement and we weren't too shy to ask for more bread later to go with our entree.

Both of our salads were first rate. I'm used to restaurant Caesar salads that our nothing but romaine lettuce mixed with bottled caesar dressing and a little parmesan cheese. I've rarely had the real thing in a restaurant and I know what it is, because I make it at home myself. Casa Visone's was excellent. I tasted Larry's salad and immediately noticed the pungent anchovy flavor that marks an authentic caesar salad dressing made from scratch. It was delicious. The basil on my tomatoes and mozzarella was so fresh tasting I asked the waitress if the restaurant grows their own herbs. She didn't know but asked Eva. Sure enough, it grows in their home garden.
Our pasta dish was so abundant I was glad we planned to share. The waitress told us their basil sauce is really good and she didn't exaggerate. I'm not a big fan of plain spaghetti, but this was so good I didn't miss the meat one bit. After lunch I told Eva we thought the food was delicious and I was going to blog about the restaurant and she showed me their dinner menu and said they try to offer a good variety. It included salmon, pork, capon, chicken dishes, etc. They all sounded mouthwatering and I'm eager to go back for dinner sometime. I especially want to try a dish in a cream sauce.

Not only was the food good but the service was great too. Our little waitress was precious. She's a rising high school senior and we talked about college. She hopes to go to WVU or Kentucky and was telling us about West Virginia's promise scholarships for high-performing high school students. She owns a mule and two horses and we had a pleasant conversation about our mutual love for horseback riding while she brought our dishes, refilled our drinks, etc.

Our lunch at the bistro was a real highlight of our visit to Martinsburg. My only regret is that I didn't go in the kitchen to meet Francesco and congratulate him on becoming a citizen. Eva told us he achieved that goal last year.

Casa Visone is at 120 N. Queen St. in Martinsburg (304) 260 9294.

A Visit to Williamsport, MD; Martinsburg, WV; and Antietam Battlefield

We chose the Williamsport KOA for our camping trip because it's close to Martinsburg and Atietam, our target locations for this little two-day outing. It turned out to be ideally located for the traveller who likes a combination of physical activities and museum visits.

The town is charming and one of the locals told us it was actually considered as a possible site for the capitol. It occurred to me later that I should have asked her to clarify. Did she mean the capitol of the country or of Maryland? Anyone know the answer? 

Martinsburg has so much to offer we were sorry not to have had more time to explore its charms.

We started our visit with a late afternoon walk along a two-mile stretch of the C&O Canal in downtown Williamsport. It took us by Lock 44 where the locksman's house still stands.

The job of the locksman was no picnic. He had to be available day and night to respond to the boatsman's whistle and raise or lower the water level in the lock so the barge could continue on its way. Those who manned the locks were paid a small stipend and provided a home, but it was a meager livelihood and the families generally needed to supplement with a garden and other work to scratch out a living. Some of the women would bake items or make crafts to sell or trade. Needless to say, life was hard and vacations were non-existent.

For those who enjoy museums Martinsburg offers the Belle Boyd house which is a mini-tour of American history. Belle Boyd, a confederate spy, lived in the house as a child for about five years. There's little in the museum about her, but its a treasure-trove of Americana. There's a Civil War room, and other rooms dedicated to the Spanish American War and World Wars I and II. One room is filled with toys and another with a display of women's dresses and other articles, and another displays a rotating exhibit. The day we visited that room was dedicated to the Boy Scouts. Last year the three local high schools each took a turn setting up displays that were so popular, they are thinking of having them do it again. A popular room features a baseball player who played for the Chicago cubs and settled in Martinsburg. He still holds the record in the National League for runs batted in and held the record for 68 years for most home runs in the National League until Mark Maguire broke it in the early 90s. Now if only I could remember his name.

I particularly enjoyed the dioramas. Here's a portion of one from the Civil War room.

The Belle Boyd house is one of those historical spots saved by the love and devotion of a few individuals who spearheaded a rescue movement. Another home in town where her father later moved the family fell to the wrecker's ball and when the city planned to demolish their earlier home as well, the historical society began a campaign to save it. Another house next door now serves as the archives for the historical society. Both buildings have beautiful gardens that are well-maintained. What a delight for the eyes! I forgot to take a picture ot the Belle Boyd house but got several of the Historical Society archive building and gardens next door. Pretty, isn't it?

Visiting the railroad station was like stepping back in history. The waiting room could have been used for the filming of Anne of Green Gables. It made me reflect on the heyday of the railroads when they were the main form of both local and cross country travel. The trains still run from Martinsburg and I'd love to come back and take a train ride. Maybe next visit.

We met a single mom on the sidewalk outside the train station who expressed disappointment in Martinsburg. I commented in passing how much we were enjoying the little town and she responded with little enthusiasm which led to an interesting conversation. She grew up in Fairfax County but longs to see more of the world. She wants to take a trip to New York and ride a horse-drawn carriage in winter through Central Park with her young son. (Complete with falling snow and Christmas lights? She must be romantic.)

I encouraged her to save her pennies and told her there are so many things within a days' drive of where she lives. I took her card and hope to be in touch. It was a day of contrasts because the woman who was giving the tour at the Belle Boyd house has lived in Martinsburg her whole life and loves it (She's a teacher.) and we met a gentleman sitting on his porch who bewailed the fact that Martinsburg has grown too large and he wishes it were the way it used to be when he was growing up. The gentleman whose name was Rick was particularly interesting. I asked if he was Catholic since he had a statue of Mary in the yard. He isn't. He recovered the statue from the bottom of a stream when he was fishing. Poor Mary! Thrown there by a kinsman of Oliver Cromwell? I told him that the Lord is pleased at him giving respect to His mother, that Jesus performed the fourth commandment to honor your mother and father better than anyone. Rick laughed and asked if she could mow the lawn for him. Rick is a navy vet and I thanked him for serving our country.

Our other stop in town was at the local Catholic Church, St. Joseph's. But I'll post separately on that. It was a head-shaker. Antietam deserves its own page too.

I'll just close with this interesting bit of trivia. All over the main street in town were decorated "artists' pallets." I'm sorry we didn't ask at the Visitors' Center what the purpose was. They ranged from the Viking and Indian maiden below to paintings of wildlife and my favorite, a colorful dragon in front of a chinese restaurant.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bob and Betty

One of the things I love about living in the country is the parade of wildlife. This afternoon we startled a deer in amongst our apple trees. Every afternoon when we're swimming, Marianna asks about "the skink." We saw the little blue-tailed fella one day and ever since we keep a watchful eye out for him. Then there is the bird life. The Phoebes have a nest in the rafters of the pool house and are having their second brood. They come and go and come and go. A baby catbird out front fell into the window well and Larry had to rescue the bitty birdy. Neither baby nor mama was happy, but there was no way that baby was going to fly out of the well on its own.

And then there are the baby bluebirds. They are growing and Marianna and I go out every day to peer into the birdhouse and say hello. Marianna even started singing a song to the tune of Frere Jacques. I had made up a song about her, but she changed it on her own, substituting "baby bluebirds" for Marianna. Here's how it goes.
Baby bluebirds, baby bluebirds, I love you, I love you
I love baby bluebirds, I love baby bluebirds, yes I do, yes I do.
But the most exciting wildlife story, at least from Marianna's point of view, was Bob...and later Betty.

A few weeks ago, Larry saw someone stop in the road and move something to the side and presumed it was a turtle. We all went over and rescued it and gave it a temporary home in a box where we fed it salad, a little turkey, veggies and fruit. Marianna named him Bob. She was a little afraid of him when I took him out of the box, but gradually warmed up. A few days later I was weeding the garden and took a wheelbarrow full of refuse to the woods. When I pushed it into the undergrowth there was another turtle. We named her Betty.

By this time Marianna was the fearless reptile hunter and had no problem handling the critters like a pro. I, on the other hand, was experiencing critter fatigue and we decided to send the two turtles off to find their families. Now every day we have to answer the compelling question, "Where Bob and Betty go?"

Home to their mommies!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The babies have arrived!

Marianna and I have been watching a pair of nesting bluebirds for the past week. They had four little eggs in the nest and it seemed like the babies would never arrive. (A watched egg never hatches.) But today we went out and took a peak and there they were in all their newborn glory. Mom and Dad are busy flying back and forth and back and forth. No rest for the weary with hungry babies in the house.

Now we will eagerly be watching them grow and hoping to see them fledge. That tiny house is definitely going to be crowded!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I'm behind in my blogging - back to the Strawberry Patch

The strawberries are all gone - consumed in frozen drinks, on top of ice cream, and just popped into the mouth at any old time a sweet, cold treat sounds good. But the memories are still fresh and the photos of the outing are worth posting a month late. We had a little helper along when we went picking in mid May. She ended up covered in strawberry juice with only the bottom of her bucket filled. Marianna did a good job, though, identifying ripe ones after a Strawberry 101 lesson from Paka.

Ah...I wish the season went on for several months instead of just a few weeks.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Skyline Drive in June: Mountain Laurel Heaven

We've been taking care of our little granddaughter for the past two months while our daughter recovers from a serious knee problem, but yesterday was a rare day off and we took full advantage of it with a hiking trip up to Skyline Drive. A lot of the overlooks were closed despite the fact nobody was working. We passed at least eight with the entrance/exit blocked and only one place where anyone was working. Seems a little crazy, eh? But there were signs everywhere saying, "You're recovery dollars at work." Was that a metaphor for the ineffectiveness of the stimulus? It was more than a little annoying because several of the hikes we planned required parking at overlooks that were closed. Ah well, we just shifted to other spots. There are certainly plenty of hiking trails in the park.

First we did a 1.5 segment of the Appalachian Trail from Fishers Gap which took us through large sections filled with mountain laurel in full bloom. One portion was actually a natural tunnel with laurel on both sides creating a lovely bower overhead. I thought how beautiful it would be with a bride and groom standing under. What a sight!

This trail also had some overlooks offering spectacular views to the west. It was a little hazy but still beautiful.

We decided not to backtrack on the trail, but did the second 1.5 miles on the road walking back to the car. It's an entirely different experience from driving. We saw two dear crossing the road who paused to look at us. We kept our eyes peeled for bear, but no luck there although we did see a large pile of scat in the woods that was probably a bear's. Undoubtedly our quest for bear failed because we didn't bring our bear charm. Grandson Brendon who has been with us twice when we saw bears.)

Our second hike was the Trace's Trail from Matthew's Arm Campground near milepost 22. Interestingly, while it was also a walk in the woods like the first hike, there wasn't any mountain laurel at all, but lots of tiny wildflowers which I enjoyed photographing. I need to pull out my wildflower book to identify them.

We finished our day with dinner in Front Royal on the way home and the determination to come back very soon. If you are 62 you can buy a senior pass that is good forever at all national parks. It's the best buy in the country since it comes with breathtaking views, refreshing foot bathing in the many waterfall pools, fresh air, and an endless supply of unforgettable moments. Skyline Drive is worth a visit if you do nothing else in the state. But we don't recommend that. Who would want to miss the Virginia vineyards and all the wonderful historical sites.

Y'all come.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Jawbone Gap Hiking Trail: Short but Straight Uphill

Larry and I are back on the hiking trail after a hiatus over the winter. I never realize how much I've missed it until we get our the hiking polls, lace up our hiking boots, and hit the trail. But we did last week with a short but steep hike on the Massanutten Mountain. We headed over to Fort Valley and selected a two-miler (Jawbone Gap Trail) up to the Massanutten Ridge Trail and back with about an 800 foot rise. It was grueling for these two out-of-shape hikers. We panted our way up to the ridge and then headed out a spur trail (.25 miles) to a view but never quite made it. The trail was rocky and required scrambling over some huge rock formations. I was a little worried about my knees and when we got to the second scramble decided to turn back. Good thing. I was in real pain going down hill and had to walk backwards in a few places or sideways to relieve the pain in my knee. But it was a great walk in the woods well worth the discomfort. The mountain laurel at the bottom of the trail was past peak, but as we reached higher elevations it was beautiful and in full glorious bloom. June is definitely a great hiking month in the Shenandoah Valley.

A short way along the trail, we came to this cross dedicated to "Backtracker Roger Heroid" (or Herold). It got us wondering. Was Roger actually buried there? (Probably not.) Did he die from a snakebite or a bear attack? (Mmmm - again, probably not.) Was this a favorite trail of his? (Probably.) I thought of all the scenarios I could create for poor Roger who apparently is no more, but is remembered by someone. So we prayed a Hail Mary for Roger and moved on.

When we reached the top of the ridge we were greeted by the orange blaze that marks the Massanutten Ridge Trail. We were glad to finally reach it and take a break for a snack and a big drink of water. It was a sweaty climb to the top.

We walked out on the spur trail to a large rock formation that we had to climb over to reach the next part of the trail. This photo of Larry on the rock doesn't do it justice. It was quite a scramble over the rocks to find where the trail was.

But the beautiful flowers along the way, made the climb worthwhile and a particular delight. I love the Mountain Laurel, especially the pink. You find it in white and different intensities of pink -- just like Dogwood. But pink is my favorite! If you haven't hiked in the woods of Virginia, you are mising one of the greatest delights on God's green earth.