A Biker, a Latte, and a Pizza Place

Starting Mileage: 1823.4

I’m not going to lie: I thought about staying in Charleston for another day.  If it had been as nice as had been the day before, I likely would have tried to stay but the temperature was quite a bit cooler and there had been some rain.  After debating with myself for a while, as I brushed the sand that had somehow ended up in the bed, I finally packed the car up and took the dogs for one last quick walk before we headed out of town.  I wasn’t really feeling the hotel breakfast, I think because I was still full from dinner.

A quick search pointed me in the direction of Bald Monkey Beanery.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find it but the building that had “COFFEE” painted across the side was definitely a clue. Despite the drive thru, I wanted to go inside and check the place out.  It was a cute shop and I got the run down of the coffee menu and at the insistence of another woman in there, I decided on a Cinnamonkey.  The woman working behind the counter was dealing with the drive thru when a man came in with his young daughter.  Well since the daughter went and sat at the register, I’m thinking this must be the owner.  I give my order then look at him.  Well the first thing that struck me was the Hell’s Angels T-shirt.  Then were the  tattoos down his arms, many with the Hell’s Angels death head.  I felt my own head drop and that was when I noticed the Hell’s Angels merchandise on the bottom shelf of the display case in front of me.  I thought about walking out but with a little girl there, I just couldn’t.  I’m not comfortable with supporting criminal organizations but I’m not going to raise a stink in front of a little girl.  And they give military discounts so I have to respect that at least.

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Something tells me this is the place

With coffee in hand, I hopped back into the car.  OK it was a nice latte, I’ll give him that.  I had read about Wannamaker County Park, an off-leash park that got great reviews that was on the way out of North Charleston.  It would have been nice if the reviews had mentioned the $2.00 admission fee just to get into the park but I guess locals can get a pass so they don’t have to worry about it.  And from what I saw, it looked like a large park with lots of other things to do.  Too bad I was just there to let the dogs burn off some energy.

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And it would have been nice if they had.  They sniffed and wandered a bit and with a bunch of spare tennis balls, Leo had fun trying to get them all.  But it seemed like no time at all before they all just stood there looking at me.  I wanted to get some pictures but how entertaining is a butt shot?  I’m trying to cut down on those anyway.  I had barely finished my coffee before we were heading back to the car.  It some times blows my mind that they are not out of their skin with energy; but then again the day before had been a busy one.

Since we had taken the back roads into the Charleston, I took a more direct route north, at least for a little bit.  I was in my own little world when it occurred to me: I haven’t eaten yet.  How could that be?!  So a quick search on Yelp had me pointed to a BBQ place in a small little town called Swansea.  And as I pulled up I was excited to have some fresh BBQ and maybe some fried okra yeah that’d be good and…closed.  Closed?  On a…wait what day is this?  This place only opens Friday and Saturday.  Dang!  OK back on Yelp and there’s a cafe down the road.  I got the car down there before I started to chew my arm off.

The Swansea Valley Cafe was open (no website or I’d link to it).  Already I was happier.  I looked over the menu and after questioning the servers about what was good (umm all of it) I decided on a buffalo chicken club (hold the tomatoes) and some swee’tea.  Yes that’s how they say it.  Because this restaurant is a small place, they warn you that your food will take a bit.  I was tempted to grab an order of the pork rinds (mmmm deep fried pig skin) but decided against it and sat out on a retaining wall after I evacuated the dogs from the car to wait for my order.  My sandwich came with a small bag of chips and a few slices of pickle.  So the buffalo chicken club is a fried chicken breast dipped on hot sauce with crumbled blue cheese, lettuce, and bacon.  It was like eating buffalo wings in sandwich form.  The only problem was that it was like eating buffalo wings.  I couldn’t taste the bacon through the hot sauce although I did like the tang from the blue cheese and if I hadn’t seen the coating on the chicken breast I likely would not have known it was there.  It was a decent sandwich overall and with the chips I was glad I had that big swee’tea as the salt sucked every ounce of moisture from my body.

We continued down the road and I stopped at more rest stops than I normally do.  Partly because that swee’tea was massive (if you get my drift) and so the dogs could have several  short little walks.  I was not too happy with the pet areas in most of the rest stops because they were tiny little strips of grass but I guess that’s better than nothing.  I’m not going to lie but a few times we maaaaaay have strayed out of a few of the pet areas to an out of the way corner of the property from view from others.  And I maaaaaaay have accidentally dropped their leashes once or twice and they maaaaaaaay have had a short little run around and play.

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Virginia is for lovers…and apparently a creepy shadow sneaking up on some adorable dogs.

As it got later, it was time to start looking at putting in for the night.  I was getting tired.  Finally I was able to find a Red Roof Inn in Wytheville, Virginia.  I could have gone further but Wytheville is right outside Jefferson National Park so I figured it would be an easy place to get to in the morning.  I checked in and as I was parking the car, I was pleasantly surprised to see a large patch of grass at the back of the lot complete with a bag dispenser and garbage bin and a fairly large hill.  I got the dogs out of the car and we walked up to our room on the second floor.  In a hallway.  As in the only window faces the walkway and a brick wall.  I had to laugh about it.  What a great view but considering that we were just here to the sleep for the night and never really have the curtains open anyway, what difference does the view make?

I took the dogs down to the grass and we had a little run around but then I realized it was getting darker and not everyone picks up after their dogs so we went back to the room, with me gingerly picking around any suspicious-looking dark patches.  By now I was famished and exhausted which is a bad combo when looking for food.  There was nothing really even close by the hotel and with the temperature dropping and somewhat poor lighting, I didn’t feel like venturing outside.  So delivery it was.  I had been trying to avoid pizza but alas, I can only resist for so long and in under an hour, a BBQ chicken pizza from Italian Garden showed up.   I was getting my BBQ no matter what.  The pizza was very good with a soft chewy crust and not weighed down under toppings.  It was lightly sauced which was perfect since it was a very sweet sauce that could have overwhelmed everything else.  I ate half of it while we watched nature documentaries.  And I do mean we.  And then we went to sleep.

More Than The Sum of Their Parts

So now that you’ve gotten to know about the dogs on their own, there is a certain dynamic that occurs when dealing with them all at once, especially when we’re out on the road.

When we stop to talk to folks on our travels, they always seem to assume that Piper is the boss.  I guess it’s because she’s the biggest of the three.  Not the case.  You see, I’m the pack leader and we all know it.  They may get excited and feel the need to mug anyone that gets close enough, but when I start to move away, they come with me.  If I make the growly  “hey” sound, they will all turn and look at me or stop what they are doing.

But when left to their own devices…

Leo has brought a spark of life to old Jack and he is more active than he has been since he was a puppy.  Leo figured out that all he has to do is pick up a toy and Jack is there to join in a game.  Or a stick and then they have a crazy game of keep away.  It must be a Boston Terrier thing.  Leo is the firecracker of the pack, that’s for sure.  At least he has two other dogs to help him burn that energy.

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Brothers ready to hit the road.

When we are in the house, Piper is the most laid back dog and has been known to take up the entire couch.  But when we leave the safe confines of our home, she is switched on.  No one can get close without a 65 lb boxer leaning on their legs.  And she she has been known to join in the odd game of tug too.  It’s really funny to watch her instigate: she’ll grab a toy and shake it while she growls, then pause and look around.  If that doesn’t get any attention, she’ll shake even harder and growl louder.  She’ll repeat this until someone joins in.  If she’s digging in the sand, then Leo will come and help her excavate.  Often he takes over her hole.

Jack would be quite happy to sit on the couch all day and sleep on the bed all night.  And he has no problem with sitting out the odd walk.  But if he wants to play, there is no denying him.  And if he hears the jingle of his harness, you better believe he’ll be the first one at the door.

The funniest part is what happens when someone comes to the door: Leo will be there first and bark his fool head off.  Jack will be next and he’ll join in the barking.  If you don’t know my animals, you would assume that there were only two dogs.  Then Piper walks around to the door and stands and just stares with that intense boxer stare as she puffs her chest out.  The boys are the mouth and she’s the muscle.  Even though I know she’s a big suck, even I have to do a double take sometimes when she has that “look”.

Want to see the mutts in action?  Here’s Leo being the little pest: The games continue.

Or when we found ourselves on a beach in Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia

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A quick game of tug at a rest stop in Minnesota.  Want to see the video? Click here.

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Down the trail

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Snoozing the miles away.

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Ferry? No big deal.

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At Wild Horse Pass in Washington.

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On the beach in Nova Scotia

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Posing in Quebec City.

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I don’t know why Leo always claims the pillow.  Or where I’m going to fit.

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Looking majestic at Childress Vineyards, North Carolina.

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The Marsh Boardwalk.

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Monument Valley Arizona.

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Family selfie in Arizona.

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Montana sunset.

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Looking out over the valley in North Carolina.

Nature Challenge: Day 3

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This photo was taken from one of the many outlooks on the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park, Virginia in April 2015 (and was the subject of one of my first blog posts).  It was almost accidental that I drove through the park however I was so taken by the sheer beauty and splendour of it that I took an opportunity to drive back through on the way north.  I will return to hike these mountains again.

This is the third of seven posts in response to becomingduetsch  7-Day Nature Photo Challenge Series.

The rule for 7-Day Nature Photo Challenge is simple. Just post your favorite nature photo and nominate another blogger every day, for 7 days.  I nominate naturehasnoboss.com who’s wonderful photographs are showing me parts of the natural world I would not otherwise see.

Homeward Bound

April 27, 2015

On our way home. The Days Inn had a continental breakfast so no waffle this morning. It made me sad.
Initially the plan had been to follow the coast back north but there were just so many CITIES in the way. It’s not that I don’t like visiting cities; it’s just when I have two dogs with me, cities are kind of boring.  I can’t browse in the shops and the three of us do tend to take up a lot of sidewalk space.  And it’s just not as much fun for them to be surrounded by concrete and glass buildings.  So I decided to stay away from the big cities.

As I looked at the roads north I thought “Not too many options away from the cities and we can go through Shenandoah Park and the Skyline Drive that I was robbed of during our trip south.  And my receipt was still good for admission.  How could we not go back? It’s only a five hour drive.”  But let me tell you friends: when the GPS says that it takes five hours to get somewhere, those will be the longest five hours of your life.  A pleasant surprise was the dog park we found at the visitor centre at The Halifax County Visitor Centre.  Although they were pretty bored of it pretty quickly so we were back on the road in no time it seemed.

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These are the best places to stumble on.


On the plus side, we got to see all the sights that we missed because of the fog the last time through. Not only that, but even more deer and a bear with her two cubs ran across the road right in front of us.  Piper was beside herself with all the activity.  Even though they both wear harnesses in the car, she was practically climbing through the back window to see all the action.

 

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Wow.

We put in at the Hotel Strasburg for the night. It’s in the town of Strasburg at the north end of the park.  It is a small town that was pretty much closed by the time we rolled into town.  Even the hotel restaurant was closed.  With my no chain restaurant rule, I ended up eating a lot of pizza.  The hotel was small, basically a renovated Victorian-style house which was one step up from a B & B. It was small and quiet and we were asleep fairly quickly as I thought of what we were going to do tomorrow.

 

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My room in the Hotel Strasburg