Moving on

It’s Saturday night and I’m typing this from our makeshift basement come kitchen come family room. Things have started moving quickly towards getting the house back to normal. Yesterday was a big day, with a moving company depositing a storage pod on our driveway, wrapping and packing everything in the affected rooms and moving them out into the pod.

Completely lowering the tone in the neighbourhood!
Completely lowering the tone in the neighbourhood!
Would make a good party space...perhaps we should hire it out?
Would make a good party space…perhaps we should hire it out?

We have met the project manager who’ll be in charge of everything (great), flooring adviser (great) and on Monday we’ll talk with the kitchen designer who I am expecting will be…great! Everyone we have dealt with – from the young man at the insurance agency call centre who took my rather stressed call when we discovered the water, to the dry out/clean up crew, to the adjustor…even the trio of guys who expertly packed and moved our belongings yesterday – has been wonderful. It’s certainly made everything as stress free and painless as possible.

Watching the movers wielding their tape guns and bubble wrap rolls yesterday, did bring home to me the reality of what is ahead of us this year. I’ve alluded to big changes for us, but after a couple of pointed questions from friends(!), it’s probably time to spill the beans.

When we left Belgium we had a few regrets in terms of missed travel opportunities. While of course it’s just not possible to see everything we did feel we could have got around a bit more, and we don’t want to be saying the same thing about our time in the United States. We are very fortunate that Richard has flexibility around his work location so we want to grab that opportunity and make the most of it. Whenever Richard came back from a trip to the West Coast he was always so positive about it and made lots of comments along the lines of “I wish I could get you all out there”. Fate smiled on us when Richard mentioned to a great friend of ours here that we were looking to spend some time out west – her response, “have I got the place for you!”

Go west!
Go west!

She has great friends who live in a not so small town in Oregon, which goes by the wonderful name of…Bend! Years ago it was known as a logging town, but now it’s a mountain biking, skiing, kayaking, hiking, climbing, camping and golfing mecca. In late November my friend and I made a trip to Bend where we stayed with her great friends and had a wonderful weekend exploring as much of the city as we could. Our hosts were amazing, taking me everywhere, helping to set up appointments with rental companies and giving invaluable advice as to what part of town would be the best place to be in.

Beautiful Bend, OR
Beautiful Bend, OR

By the end of the weekend we’d found a great little house and I was confident that Bend would be a pretty cool place to take a bit of time out, spend some more time as a family in the outdoors and see more of the US. (From Bend we can easily get to places like Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco…there has even been talk of Alaska!) I had a chat with the principal at Olive and Edie’s school and she had no concerns about us taking the girls out of school before the end of the academic year. We are going to attempt a spot of unschooling with maybe a bit of online school on the side. The house in Bend has been rented for three months starting at the beginning of April and hopefully this renovation won’t get in the way of that start date. We were all ready to put the house on the market after Christmas but the leak has delayed that somewhat – trusting that all will work out ok!

So there you have it – the next step in our adventure. I’m looking forward to sharing many tales from the road with you all. I’ll finish with another beautiful Bend shot…

bend3

Until next time…

Tuckered out!

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Tucker County, West Virginia, a beautiful part of the country which is known as a place to go for outdoor activities – skiing, hiking, camping, cycling, kayaking, caving, rock climbing…you get the picture! We rented a cabin at Timberline in the Canaan Valley, where you’ll find ski fields, zip lines and all manner of other outdoorsy things.

The focus of our weekend was getting out on our bikes and as both girls have improved so much on their bikes since our cycling adventure last Memorial Day weekend, we were keen to let them loose on one of the old rail trails. We chose the Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail, a roughly 10 mile, downhill ride, which lies on the bed of an old railway line which was built in 1888.

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It was a beautiful ride and so great to see the girls confidently maneuvering their bikes along narrow trails, over branches and rocks, and even through the odd puddle of mud. I didn’t do too badly either!

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The rail trail took up most of the morning and then we spent the afternoon taking in the local art scene in the neighbouring towns of Davis and Thomas. As luck would have it, Memorial Day weekend was also the Tucker County ArtSpring festival, so the two small towns were full of all sorts of art and craft activities – the girls even got to try their hand at a bit of tie-dying.

The other happy coincidence about visiting Tucker County last weekend was the Blackwater Classic, a mountain bike race that both Richard and the girls could take part in. So on Sunday morning we loaded up the bikes and headed to the start line. The kids were up first and as the lead adult headed off, one very determined Olive was the first rider behind him. She hung on in there the whole way, eventually finishing up fourth – the first girl home! Edie did a great job too and both thoroughly enjoyed their first big race.

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We knew that Richard’s race would take just a wee bit longer than the kids one, so the girls and I headed back to Thomas. There we had found a fantastic cafe called Tip Top – just like a kiwi one – so we refueled with coffee, hot apple cider and cake, before taking part in more ArtSpring activities.

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After a fun couple of hours dabbling in mono and screen printing, we headed back to Davis in the hopes of seeing Richard cross the line. We were just in time…it wasn’t long before he appeared through the trees…the girls were waving and cheering…and then the front tyre on his brand new bike had a major malfunction and he came crashing to the ground, pretty much right at our feet! Fortunately the mountain biking community are a friendly and helpful lot and there was no shortage of volunteers to help him back up and across the line – phew! Olive summed up how we all were feeling, “that was really scary Mum”!

Here are some official pics of the race…

OliveMTB

EdieMTB

RichMTB

 

So after a fantastic weekend we can highly recommend the Tucker County area as a great place to visit. We will definitely return here next winter to ski.

I’ve finally sorted through all my pics from Puerto Rico. If you click here you can check out the album I made, as well as photos from our trip to New Zealand over Christmas, which I finally got around to uploading!

On Sunday our neighbours are taking us to experience that quintessential American pastime – a game of baseball! We are off to DC to watch the Nationals – our team – play the Texas Rangers. There will most definitely be a blog post to follow – stay tuned 🙂

 

 

Riding the Virginia Creeper Trail

Last Friday we took the girls out of school early, loaded the bikes on the car and made our way the furthest south we have ever been since moving to “the south”. Our destination was Hungry Mother State Park, one of the original six state parks built by the CCC during the Great Depression. Hungry Mother is a popular family getaway as it is surrounded by beautiful trees, has a 108 acre lake in the heart of the mountains, a sandy beach, camping grounds, cabins, fishing spots and biking trails.

Looking across the lake from the beach at Hungry Mother State Park.
Looking across the lake from the beach at Hungry Mother State Park.

According to legend, when Native Americans destroyed several settlements along the banks of the New River , a woman named Molly Marley and her small child were among the survivors captured by the raiders and taken to their base north of where the park is situated. Molly and her child escaped and wandered on through the wilderness surviving on only the berries they found along the way. Molly eventually collapsed but her child bravely soldiered on, wandering down a creek until he found help. The first words he uttered on encountering help were “Hungry Mother”. By the time the rescuers reached the foot of the mountain where Molly had collapsed, she was dead. This mountain is now known as Molly’s Knob.

We’d chosen to stay in one of the cabins. It was very cute – nestled in the trees and equipped with everything we could need. We cooked a quick dinner and headed for bed as we had to be up early for our adventure on Saturday.

Warming up at the start of our big day with cups of hot chocolate.
Warming up at the start of our big day with cups of hot chocolate.

We were up and out the door early on Saturday morning, heading for the town of Damascus – and no there weren’t any great religious epiphanies along the way! What’s important about Damascus – or Trail Town as it is often referred to – is that four scenic trails converge there. The Appalachian Trail, US Bicycle Route 76, the Iron Mountain Trail and the Virginia Creeper Trail, all cross paths in this tiny town of only 981 official residents. We had our sights set on the Virginia Creeper Trail – a 35 mile hiking, cycling and horse riding trail – that up until 1977 was a railway line.

Most of the businesses in Damascus were bike hire and bike shuttle operations. Here we are waiting for our bikes to be loaded on to the trailer for our ride up to Whitetop where we would start our descent.
Most of the businesses in Damascus were bike hire and bike shuttle operations. Here we are waiting for our bikes to be loaded on to the trailer for our ride up to Whitetop where we would start our descent.

It took about 25 minutes to drive up to Whitetop and from there we had about 13 miles of downhill riding ahead of us. Once you got started you really didn’t need to pedal, so it made for a very relaxed and enjoyable ride. We took lots of breaks along the way to admire the scenery. It was beautiful. The trail follows along next to Laurel Creek and there are several bridges to cross whilst coasting down to Damascus.

Olive rode the whole trail by herself. Here she is crossing one of the bridges.
Olive rode the whole trail by herself. Here she is crossing one of the bridges.
Checking out the creek.
Checking out the creek.
Girls on the ride!
Girls on the ride!
It was great to hear the creek rushing by as we cycled along.
It was great to hear the creek rushing by as we cycled along.
We stumbled across this very cute ice cream shop about halfway along the trail. Unfortunately it was closed.
We stumbled across this very cute ice cream shop about halfway along the trail. Unfortunately it was closed.

There was an open ice cream store conveniently located at the end of the trail and it was full of cyclists refueling after their tough downhill ride. We headed back to Hungry Mother so that the girls could play on the beach and have a dip in the lake. It was Memorial Weekend in the US – the weekend that traditionally signals the start of summer – so it was the first day of business for many public pools and beaches.

Olive playing around in the lake.
Olive playing around in the lake.
The other important part of Memorial Weekend - remembering the men and women who died whilst serving in the US Armed Forces.
The other important part of Memorial Weekend – remembering the men and women who died whilst serving in the US Armed Forces.

We headed back to Winchester on Sunday morning as we’d been invited to a Memorial Weekend pool party later that day. The girls couldn’t wait to throw on their swimsuits and eat hot dogs with their friends!

It's a party in the USA!
It’s a party in the USA!

We’re looking forward to another pool party this weekend. On Saturday we’ll be taking part in our neighbourhood’s 14th annual Yard Sale and Block Party – two quintessential (at least in my book) American experiences. I will keep you posted 🙂

Hope everyone is well and surviving the wintry blast hitting New Zealand at the moment. Thinking of you all and sending lots of love xxx

Shenandoah River State Park

We’ve had an unseasonably warm weekend with temperatures getting up into the low 70’s – that’s my newfound Farenheit knowledge talking! For those of us more used to celsius, this means we’ve had a couple of days in the middle of winter where the temperature has gotten over 20 degrees. The perfect opportunity to get outside and do some more exploring.

Today's explorations were of the cycling variety - no surprise to those of you who know my husband well!
Today’s explorations were of the cycling variety – no surprise to those of you who know my husband well!

There are 25 state parks in Virginia and over 500 miles of hiking, biking and horse riding trails. In 2012 over 8 million visitors took advantage of the wide array of spaces looked after by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. We thought we’d do our bit for the 2013 visitor numbers and make a trip to the Shenadoah River State Park. This park is only 30 miles south of Winchester and boasts a mix of easy and challenging trails. Richard is really keen to get the girls used to riding off road as early as possible and Olive is particularly keen to become a mountain biker just like Dad. Edie still rides with her bike attached to Richard’s but we hope it’s not too long before she is flying solo.

Bring it on!
Bring it on!

The carpark was at the top of our chosen trail, which meant a short burst of DH – that’s mountain bike speak for down hill- before the track flattened out. Olive did amazingly well – got off and walked her bike if she felt it was a bit too scary – but by the end of the DH section she was staying on much more than she was getting off.

Setting off on the big DH.
Setting off on the big DH.

The scenery was beautiful and did much to distract me from my nerves – whizzing around the streets of Antwerp on my Dutch bike cannot be compared to navigating a mountain bike down a bumpy trail but I acquitted myself okay and was still on my saddle by the time we reached the bottom.

Taking a break to admire the scenery.
Taking a break to admire the scenery.
Off we go again.
Off we go again.
Wonder if I can hitch my back to Edie's She has a very easy ride!
Wonder if I can hitch my back to Edie’s?  She has a very easy ride!
Loving the bright green on this tree.
Loving the bright green on this tree.

Down by the river we heard the tapping of a woodpecker on one of the trees – I had to resist the urge to break into the theme song from the Woody Woodpecker Show – and later on we saw one up close. The girls are becoming very keen bird watchers helped in no small part by the bird feeder we have set up in the back garden. For the past couple of days we have had a pair of cardinals stopping by for a snack.

The park is very well equipped, with campsites, RV sites and cabins, so we are definitely going to come back and stay for a weekend when the weather warms up.

Although the sky looks grey, it turned out to be a really beautiful day with lots of sunshine.
Although the sky looks grey, it turned out to be a really beautiful day with lots of sunshine.
Lovely reflections down by the river.
Lovely reflections down by the river.
We thought we spotted deer hooves in the mud here.
We thought we spotted deer hooves in the mud here.

As I write we are only two sleeps away from the birthday of the century – yes it’s the big five for Miss Edie Cate – a birthday she has been desperately awaiting. Check back here after Tuesday to see how she celebrated.

And you’ll be pleased to know I survived my first quilting class – if you’re interested, I’ve written about it on my How to Make an American Quilt page.

Take care everyone. Sending lots of love to you all xxx