Debbie had been to ‘8 Chains North’ once before and remembered liking it, but I had never been, so we decided that this would be our first stop for the day. We donned our masks and were greeted at the door by a friendly wine associate who explained the Covid protocols that they had in place.
We picked a sun-drenched table by a window and then decided to try their self-guided flight. Instead of gulping each sample down, we made the decision to take a sip, or two of each, and then line them up in order of our favorite to our least favorite. Surprisingly (although not completely shocking), we both ended up liking the ‘Cross Country Red’ the most, so we left the remaining samples and ordered a bottle of the winner.
Debbie brought food to share, so I bought the wine–perfect!
After our first glass, we decided to sit outside. It was gorgeous, and quite a surprise for a cold January day. It was overcast and blustery earlier when we had left home, but the building buffered us from the wind, and our chairs were directly facing the sun. I can only compare it to that great feeling of sitting in the sun right after skiing. It’s that bundled up because it’s cold, but warm & toasty feeling—does that make sense–I hope so!
We really enjoyed our wine and we had a great time, and as a famed Austrian has been known to say, “I’ll be back!”
Unfortunately I didn’t catch (or I don’t remember) the name of the gal who did our tasting, but she was really friendly and fun. She did a great job by guiding us through each wine by first telling us about it, and then giving us the opportunity to ask questions. I typically learn toward reds, so several of the whites totally caught me by surprise. The first being the 2019 Chardonnay. Don’t quote me on this, but I think she said that it wasn’t oaked, or maybe it was only in oak for a short period of time. It was yummy–I caught the taste of apple on my palette, and I thought the acidity was perfect. I would drink this all summer long!
I found all of the red wines to be tasty, with the exception of the 2017 Barbera, which I would rate as a solid okay. I felt the nose to be a off-putting, and the taste was unremarkable. With that said, I’ve never tasted a Barbera wine (to my knowledge) before, so I would be open to trying it again.
My second surprise was the Russian Kiss. The name sounds intriguing, right? I couldn’t necessarily pick out the flavors written in the tasting notes, but it was fruity with only a hint of sweetness (.5 RS). It was really nice.
Our friend, Andrew, is a member at Big Cork, and he graciously purchased two bottles from the member-only black label wines. We enjoyed a bottle of 2016 Cabernet France Vinter Select, and a bottle of 2016 Petit Verdot Reserve Select. Both were amazing, and after much debate I think the PV was my favorite of the day!
This was my first visit to Big Cork, and I definitely plan go back. We were there for several hours, and we laughed, carried on, and had a great time. The staff was friendly, the wine was wonderful, and both the tasting room and the covered patio area were comfortable and inviting.
It had been in the mid-90’s for days, and this week’s upcoming forecast was going to be more of the same–hot! It’s been really hard to get a walk in the extreme heat, so I came up with a challenge for the week, which I proposed to Debbie on Sunday. I suggested that we take turns Monday-Friday, planning and surprising the other with different walking locations. The rules–shade after 5:00 p.m., and we needed to walk a minimum of 2 miles (which would also fulfill my ongoing Camino Coronavirus Walking Challenge). She accepted and we had a great week!
Monday–Debbie opted to go first and we headed to the Hagerstown City Park, which is located in Hagerstown, M.D. We’d both been there before, but it had been a long time since our last visit. It was still hot, but there was a cool breeze and we were in the shade for the majority of the time. The park is home to many types of water foul, including swans and several varieties of ducks and geese.
Tuesday–I picked Spruce Pine Hollow Trail for my ‘shade walk.’ Debbie had never been here before, which surprised me, because it’s so close to where we live. It was shady which kept the sun from beating down on our heads, but it was hot & HUMID! The best part of this hike was that it was a NOHOT, which in my lingo means: No Humans on Trail! As you can probably tell by the exclamation marks, this is my favorite kind of hiking!
Wednesday–It was Debbie’s turn again and she took us to the Yankauer Nature Preserve. The back end of the Preserve is situated high on the banks of the Potomac River, offering a nice overlook. Again, we enjoyed another shady location, and we scored another NOHOT!
Thursday–It was my turn again, but we had previously made plans for the day, including a road trip to Debbie’s favorite liquor store in PA (Yes, it’s true, she has a fav! LOL!), and lunch with my sister, Missy. On the way home, we stopped in Williamsport, M.D., so we could meet the requirements of the week—walking in shade!
Friday–Debbie opted to stay local for today’s walk and she took me to Poor House Farm. We’ve been here many, many times over the years, but today offered a surprise…the hilltop trail was lined with wine berries, which are an edible invasive related to raspberries. We filled up two water bottles with berries as we walked.
Saturday–Not much of a surprise, but I was really excited about the wine berries, so we went back to get more, and this time we came armed with buckets! We walked and picked for almost two hours…yes, we were in the shade!
My first training of the new year was scheduled in Los Angles, CA. Coming from the east coast, who wouldn’t want to head out for a week of sunny skies and mild weather? My training was really fun (I had a great group of participants) and the weather was fantastic…so it SHOULD have been a terrific week. However, my phone was stolen while I was there. Not only was it a giant hassle to get it replaced, but I realized how much I rely on my phone when I travel. I use it as an alarm to wake me up in the morning, my watch, my timer during the trainings, my GPS while I’m driving, communications (phone, emails & texts), it holds my travel itineraries, and it’s my camera….ahhhh…it’s my everything! What did we do 15-20 years ago? I know…we used a regular camera, an alarm clock, a watch, a phone, and real maps! Times sure have changed!
I made it out to Manhattan Beach twice during the week. I usually do the same thing every time I go there–I walk out to the beach and the pier to look at the scenery (and people watch), and I visit ‘Pages,’ which is a little bookstore located a short walk from the beach on Manhattan Avenue. I really love this little store, so if you’re in the area…stop in! I bought a birthday gift for my friend, Debbie while I was there.
When I conduct my trainings, I always beginning by introducing myself. I usually tell my participants how much I like to travel, and about my long distance hiking, including the Camino de Santiago. A few days into the training, one of my participants approached me and asked if I heard of the movie called, “The Way.” It’s a movie about the Camino de Santiago that was written and directed by Emilio Estevez, and the lead was played by his father, Martin Sheen. I laughed and told her that not only had I seen it, but I’ve seen it about 10-12 times! I knew about the Camino prior to seeing the movie and I wanted to hike it, but the movie is what made me commit to doing it.
The next day, she presented me with a bottle of wine. I was momentarily confused, until she explained that her husband was the producer of the movie—the PRODUCER–and that the bottle of wine was from Emilio’s vineyard (he has since sold the vineyard). The gift was so thoughtful and appreciated! I really love the movie, and it holds such a special place in my heart because of my experience walking the Camino. I’ve walked the Camino Frances two times for a total 1,000 miles! And yes, I’m going to do it again!
This gift was so special, so I asked her to make sure to thank her husband for me, and to let him know that I would love to be an extra if he ever films a sequel! Hey, we only live once, so I even told her the story line that I imagined for the next movie! Okay, okay…twist my arm. The main story line would involve the four main characters hiking a different trail together again. A side story, will involve Josst, played by Yorick van Wageningen, meeting my character…sorry, the rest will have to be up to your imagination until Emilo writes the next script!
Several years ago, my friend, Tom, and I biked the entire length of the C&O Canal, which runs 184 1/2 miles from Georgetown (Washington, D.C.) and Cumberland, Maryland. We had a lot of fun and we enjoyed the conquest, but we were left with one disappointment…there wasn’t a 1/2 way marker along the trail. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but we were really bummed. Many long distance trails have 1/2 way markers and we wondered why this one didn’t.
We’re both members of the C&O Canal association and we have volunteered for years as ‘Level Walkers,’ which is a fancy way of saying that we were assigned to a section of the canal towpath to pick up trash. Tom eventually became involved in the leadership side of the Canal Association. In one of the meetings, Tom brought up the idea of installing a midway point marker. His idea was met with enthusiasm, but it was explained that since the C&O Canal was park of the National Parks system, it could be a long, drawn out process to get the marker installed. Additionally, the marker would look like the other mileage markers on the trail. In other words, no bells and whistles! We were okay with that, we were just happy that his idea was being considered. In the end, they were right, it took time and it was plain, but it was finally installed during the summer of 2019.
We set out from McMahon’s Mill and took a right on the canal trail, paralleling the river. The weather was overcast creating an almost mystical quality on the water and the surrounding area.
I probably should have named this post, ‘Rocky Mountain Oysters, High School Sweethearts, Naked Men, and what happens in South Dakota, stays in South Dakota!’
I stayed in the town of Torrington, WY for two weeks for work, and while I was there, I was able to sample a lot of the local offerings. On the day I rolled into town, I was told to head over to the ‘Bronco Grill House.’ I asked the waitress for a recommendation, and without hesitation she replied, “Try the peanut butter burger. It’s so good!” I momentarily hesitated, but I went with her suggestion, and I’m glad I that did—it was really good in a weird and wonderful way! I’m happy that she didn’t suggest a side of Rocky Mountain oysters, because I would have had to politely decline!
Later in the week, I was told to go to the ‘truck stop’ for dinner. I must admit, that originally, I wasn’t overly enticed to head over. However, after several people encouraged me to try it, I decided to give it a chance. The real name of the place is the ‘307 Bar and Grill.’ Except for the bar part, it reminded me of some of the diners that I’ve been to in New Jersey in the past. I wondered why it was called ‘307,’ and someone eventually told me that 307 is the local area code!
I ended up going twice, and the second time I had macaroni & cheese. I cringe thinking about the calorie count, but I have to admit that it was delicious!
Admittedly, if it weren’t for one of my participants bringing me a spiced apple cider and a gingerbread cookie from AJ’s, I probably wouldn’t have ever thought to try this place out. AJ’s sits on the far end of town in an unassuming, little turquoise blue building. They offer ice cream, all sorts of mix-and-match flavored sodas, coffee, tea…and delicious cookies! You can park and go inside, or you can pull up to a little window on the back of the building, and order from your car.
I tried their mixed soda called, ‘High School Sweetheart’ and I fell in love with it immediately. It’s made with Dr. Pepper, raspberry, and coconut cream. Oh, be still my beating heart–your first “crush” is always the hardest to forget about, and I thought about this drink concoction all week! Their spiced apple cider was delicious as well, and their gingerbread cookies….Oh, I had to control myself! I was gifted one, and then I allowed myself to a get 2nd one, during the 2nd week I was in town. If I lived in Torrington, AJ’s would definitely be problem for me!
One night, after dinner, I was invited by a co-worker to go to a local bar called, ‘Bitch’s,’ and of course I accepted. We laughed a lot and were having a great time, but as the evening wore on, I eventually needed to go to the bathroom. As I got up from my chair, I was ‘warned’ that there were pictures of naked men in the restroom.
I didn’t think too much of it, because I was imagining something more along the lines of what you would see in the ‘Hot Men of 2019 Firemen Calendar’–partially clad hot bodies. Oh, the pictures were hot alright, but not like my PG musings, they were straight out of old issues of Playgirl. Collages of fully naked men in all of their glory, erections and all, covered the bathroom walls! After I got over the initial shock, I have to admit that I’ve never laughed so hard in a public restroom before. I’m glad that I thought to bring my camera in with me–sorry to disappoint, I’m not posting any pictures, you’ll just have to trust me on this one. It was eye popping!
I was grinning as I came out of the bathroom, and as I rounded the corner to head back into the bar, a funny thought crossed my mind. The old timers at the bar had seen me leave the room to head to the bathroom, and now I wondered if they were thinking, “We know why she’s smiling!” With that thought, I actually started to laugh as I re-entered the bar! I didn’t look, but I was told that the men’s room had a similar decorating style, but of course, of the opposite sex.
Toward the end of my stay, I had tried all of the restaurants that had been suggested to me, so I decided to go to Pizza Hut, because it was close to my hotel and I hadn’t gone to Pizza Hut in at least 15 years. The funniest thing happened while I was there. When I walked in, there was only one other table that was occupied, and I was seated right next to them. Another group came in a few minutes after I was served, and the man in the group stood a few feet from my table and said loudly, “Hey—you were in South Dakota this weekend, right?”
I had in South Dakota, so looked up with disbelief. I was about to answer, and the guy at the next table said, “Yeah, we were!”
The first guy said, “I knew it! I saw you at the rest stop!”
Small town! I just glad that I didn’t answer! 🤣
Deadwood, now designated as a National Landmark, began as a gold rush town in late 1800’s. Famous for the larger-than-life characters who lived there, like Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, and Wild Bill Hickok, Deadwood was also known for it’s brothels, gambling halls, and lawlessness. It was a dangerous town where riches could me made (if you could stay alive long enough to enjoy them). To illustrate that point most famously, in the spring of 1876 Wild Bill Hickok was killed when he was shot in the back of the head at point blank range during a poker game in the No. 10 Saloon. Legend has it that when he died he was holding a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights, which later became known as the dead man’s hand. He and Calamity Jane are buried side-by-side in the Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood.
The drive from Mount Rushmore was uneventful, but slow because of the snow. I arrived after sunset, and the town was lit up with Christmas lights and decorations. After checking-in to my hotel, I bundle up and headed into town. The town square had an ice skating rink, a music tent, and crafting tents set up. Nearby a huge Christmas tree was decorated for the holidays, and Christmas music could be heard echoing down the streets. There weren’t a lot of people walking around, but enough to make it feel festive and alive. I loved the old buildings, but it’s a bit sad that most of them are filled with tourist tchotchkes!
Prior to leaving on my trip, I asked one of the women at work to write down a few ideas of things to do and see while I was in Deadwood. I wasn’t sure what time I was going to arrive, so I wanted to have plenty of ideas.
She wrote this list on a sticky note–
Pam’s Purple Door
The Pink Door
*Then walk the streets
After reading it over, I looked up and asked with smile, “What kind of girl do you think I am?” We both had a good laugh at her suggestions! I later found out that Madame Peacock’s is really called, Madame Peacock’s Beer & Bling! It’s a gift store, but it was closed when I was out ‘walking the streets,’ so I didn’t have the opportunity to check it out.
For dinner, I ordered a bison & elk burger with spicy buffalo tater tots on the side, and when I couldn’t decide which local beer to order, the waitress brought out three for me to try. In the picture below, the dark one on the far right was called, Buffalo Snot! It was good and it’s made by the Mount Rushmore Brewing Company.
I was scheduled to work in Wyoming for two weeks, so it really didn’t make much sense to fly home between the trainings. Instead, I decided to take a road trip to South Dakota. I actually wanted to see two things while I was there–bison and my dad’s favorite rock group, Mount Rushmore, which has been near the tippy-top of my Bucket List for a long time!
I checked and re-checked the weather forecast, because the drive was in an isolated area, and I didn’t want to add bad weather to the mix. On Saturday morning, multiple sources said, “No snow,” so I set off early, insuring that I had many hours of daylight in front of me. The landscape of southeast Wyoming is flat, flat, flat with a backdrop of hills and mountains in the distance. And trees? What trees? The ground had a bit of snow cover from the last storm, and for the most part, the roads were clear, but remnants of snow and ice came and went in patches as I drove past.
I barely saw any cars as I was driving through Wyoming and into South Dakota. I finally entered the “tree zone” area of the Black Hills, which is where Custer State Park is located. While I was in park, I didn’t see another single vehicle (or person) for the entire time that I was there. It was magical and eerie, all at the same time! I was told that my best chances of seeing bison was at this park, so I kept looking and looking!
At one point, I came round a curve and I saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. I pulled the car over and looked out to see hundreds of prairie dogs popping in and out of their holes. I opened the window and listened to their elaborate communication system–where each would squeak and chirp, disappear underground for a few seconds, then reappear to seemingly start the process again. They looked like the ‘whack-a-mole’ game that many of us have played when the carnival rolled into town for the weekend when we were kids—pop up, squeak, pop down, pop up, squeak! The only thing missing was the whack, whack, whack! I could have watched and listened to them all day!
They say timing is everything…about 45 minutes after arriving at Mount Rushmore a huge fog bank rolled in. Check out the difference in the pictures! As I was leaving, I stopped at the visitor center and I was told that the fog was expected to stay put for the rest of the day–I was SO lucky! I felt bad to see the visitors walking in and overhearing them ask, “Where is it?”
When I asked the rangers at Mount Rushmore about seeing bison in Custer State park, they agreed that was the best place to see them. I told them that I didn’t see any and the ranger guessed that the animals were probably huddling up to keep warm, and to protect themselves from the approaching snow. SNOW?
“It’s supposed to snow?” I asked, trying to hid the surprise in my voice. “The weather report said that we weren’t expecting snow.”
He smiled, and replied, “It’s going to snow….soon.”
It was snowing by the time I pulled out of the parking garage of the park….so much for no snow! I left Mount Rushmore at a few minutes before 3:00 p.m. and I was heading for Deadwood, which is located about an hour and twenty minutes north of the park.
To sum it up–the drive was beautiful, Mount Rushmore was amazing, but no bison sightings—‘two out of three ain’t bad!’ Now I have to worry about the snow…