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Poptarts: not just for breakfast anymore

Next, please.

What did my sister mean when she told you guys “no poptarts in the car”?, I ask my two nieces. They’ve handed me a huge bag filled with various and sundry snack items. Goldfish crackers, fig newtons, cheez-its and other major food groups. So what’s the deal with poptarts, I gotta wonder.

My query is answered by a robust giggle explosion. Oh, I see. The phrase pops into my head “dry as a popcorn fart.”  I’ve driven enough cub scouts around town over the years to know to keep the windows cracked (we’re cold, Mrs. Sword) and today I get the nagging feeling this two hour drive to the Kentucky Horse Park is gonna seem a bit longer than perhaps it should.

But I have to know. So, how did this get biological phenomena get the name of poptarts, I ask the girls. Amid more giggles and snorts, they tell me. In unison and I think another language. I get none of the back story. But the essence is there. Ah, but hopefully not literally.

And so begins our annual Kentucky Horse Park trip with the nieces. The trunk is full to bursting with the essentials of an overnight trip with two young ladies and an older chick, plus one yellow dog. Yaxley joins us for the adventure, his last big road trip before turn in to CCI next month.

Yax went with us last year as well and we shared some of our stories at Freshly Baked Road Apples. As I read this post from last summer, I see I made mention of Yaxley’s problem of dog issued poptarts in the car. So we have a running theme here, I guess. Yep, envy me y’all.

I kept an eye on the weather reports for this weekend. I wanted to bring Yax along for more exposure to crowds and novel items, but not if it were to be paw searingly hot. But reasonable temps in the Lexington forecast, just a threat of a thunderstorm or two. I have no worries about thunderstorms and this dog; he’s absolutely solid there. I got caught in a particularly nasty storm while driving a couple of months ago with Yaxley and Micron in the car. I pulled into a parking lot to wait it out.  Just in time, too. A thunderclap hit so intense it shook our car and set off the car alarm in the vehicle next to us. The two dogs were laying in the backseat calmly wondering when dinner was going to be. Nice. I’ve had storm anxious dogs before and this is a welcome break from that drooling drama.

I’ve stopped telling people ahead of time that I’m taking the nieces to Breyerfest in Kentucky because it sounds too much like a hillbilly family reunion. (A briarfest, huh? Y’all got a big family to have a whole festival.) But it’s really a pretty prestigious event. Over the years, I’ve patted the velvet noses of such celebrities as the Hidalgo the movie horse, and William Shatner’s All Glory. Some great shows in the covered arena and full access to the horse park.

It’s a bonus to have Yaxley with us again this summer. With his CCI logo cape on, he is a rock star as we walk around, eclipsing some of the guest horses with his canine mini-celebritydom.

While the nieces take a few minutes to paint some horse models, Yaxley builds up his fan base.

Instead of watching paint dry, we set aside our tiny masterpieces and head off to find some novel objects for Yaxley to experience. We make our way to the petting zoo and are greeted by a welcoming committee. So what kind of welcome do you get when you bring a pooch into a petting zoo?

Not necessarily a warm one.

B-a-a-a-d dog.

This doesn’t seem to bother Yaxley awful much. He’s a little busy trying to get his head around the huge tortoise lumbering his way.

Ok, the thing is not a threat, per se and all.  But it does fit into the “that ain’t right” category of the dog noggin. If you can’t play with it, sleep on it, chew on it or eat it, then what use is it anyway?

The Museum of the Horse is a favorite on our list for the annual tour, as well. Because it’s blessedly air conditioned and pleasant way to wait out a thunderstorm. Oh, by the way, you know how when you get flip flops wet they make that weird, wet squeaking noise when you walk? And if you call them poptart flops it can cause young girls to nearly need a change in shorts?

The museum volunteer welcomes our pup-in-training and we stroll on through. Folk we met earlier in the park greet Yaxley by name as we meet again. We begin to feel like entourage to the dog. We’re not asked our names. Ever. Roadies don’t need names, you know.

We stop for a photo op with a horse skeleton. A pretty novel object to check off the socialization list. You’re welcome, CCI.

Before and After of the racehorse, Lexington.

 [We pause our story here for an Awww moment.]

And we’re back.  Ok, so last year we took basically the same shot below. Except I lifted Yaxley into the chair with the girls. Ain’t happening this year. He’s safe on the ground and my back is still intact.

The theme this year at Breyerfest was British Invasion. Which brings to mind such things as the Revolutionary War or perhaps even The Beatles. But when you think of the British Isles and horses, don’t you make the natural connection of jousting competitions?

No? Well someone did.  Here we have a couple of brave knights decompressing after rugged swordplay and thrusting about lances at each other.  My attempt to get a nice shot of a Sir Knight and his noble steed went terribly awry.

You know, I think there’s a poptart joke in here somewhere.

Just four more weeks on the Yaxley countdown, folks. We have a few more adventures to fit in between now and then. Check back with us to see what’s next.

Spirits of the season

Biltmore House, Asheville NC

The baby’s crying upstairs, but I can’t go up there.

It’s October 29, 1977, and the Saturday night before Halloween. I’ve snagged a primo babysitting gig for a family of three charming children who live in an 1880’s farmhouse several miles outside of our small southern Ohio village. The parents have gone off to celebrate Halloween in whatever fashion befitting young parents of that era, which as I recall, involved beer and rural cemeteries. They say they won’t be getting back until late and that’s fine with me ‘cuz I’ll get paid extra for mastering nothing harder than just watching their kids sleep. Easy peasy, mac and cheesy.

I know it sounds like folklore, but in the days before cable TV’s, DVD’s, and PC’s we didn’t have acronyms. No, what I mean is, we teenagers of the 70’s were forced to design our own wholesome entertainment or else we’d be out there drinking beer and graveyard hopping or something.  So, considering it’s dark outside and anyway, I’m stuck inside with three little kids in their PJ’s, I gotta find something to do that’s more interesting than staring at the carpet stains. There’s only four channels on the TV on a good day and this isn’t one of them. Good thing I was one of those higher thinking teenagers (geek who didn’t have a date on a Saturday night) and had the sound idea to bring a book along with me.

This is where the smart thinking stops short like a drunk tripping over a tombstone. My tome of choice for the evening was the recently released Amityville Horror.  A True Story! the book cover exclaims in big red print. An old house possessed by evil entities! Red glowing pig eyes watching the children through the windows! Dripping walls and flying pests of biblical proportions!  Disembodied voices shouting GET OUT!  The perfect book to read for Halloween! Count me in!

Perfect, indeed. But not this night for this teenager. I can hear the wind blowing through the trees outside and the old farmhouse creaks and groans as if it’s awakening from a deep slumber. And what the heck is that weird noise in the basement anyway? All neighbors are way past any viable screaming distance in this rustic country setting. And you know what they say, a possum rustling through a corn field makes the same exact sound as three men with an axe.  I have my teenaged self so worked up reading this horrific story that every little sound has me sinking further into something like a fetal position, but with one hand still out there to turn the pages.

Then the toddler starts crying upstairs.

Gah! I say.  I’m now standing in the center of the living room and staring at the ceiling. Mind is whirling . . . why is she crying, did something scare her?  Does something have her?  I have to go up and check on her, of course.  Yep, I do.  I need to go up there. I really should go up there now. Yup.

A retro reminder for y’all.  The year of 1977 is post-Exorcist but pre-Freddy Krueger.  Teenagers of this era had not been desensitized by slasher movies and rated-M video games. Our hormone enriched imaginations were much better equipped  at creating deep levels of dread and fear back then, I think. Well, at least I was pretty good at it.

So, yeah I did go check on the precious little girl and was able to calm her back to her pretty princess sleep. I had to, of course.  It was the moral thing to do facing those imaginary red-eyed demons and well, financially speaking, the smart thing to do if I wanted another sitting gig with this family. But I will tell you, with very little sense of shame, that it was absolutely one of the hardest things I’ve ever made myself do. To take on that creaking stairwell and walk straight-backed down the hall and into her darkened bedroom.

Oh, I did it. But I couldn’t look out her bedroom window. Because I knew there would be a pair of glowing red pig eyes looking back in.

Sure, that’s, um, interesting, you say, but why tell us this now, some thirty years later?  Because it’s Halloween, you guys. And especially because I captured this neat photo of a sentinel lion sculpture during our tour of the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC.  And then I spookified it up to make it all creepy and stuff. Which reminded me of the lion statue that bit the guy’s leg in Amityville Horror, which then brought the memory tour bus full circle by drudging up that Babysitting in Hell House nightmare.

And by the way, the ‘rents came back in the wee hours totally skunked and the dad had to drive me back home in that condition.

In a Pinto wagon.

That, my friends, was the truly for-real frightening part of the night. You can’t make this kind of stuff up.

I vant to bite yer leg

So, anyway

On the patio at the Arbor Grill.
Yax is trying hard to ignore a
french fry under my chair.

Right, so anyway we capped off the fall road trip by stopping by the Biltmore House for a tour of the place. No photos permitted inside the home, but we could take some shots outside and at the nearby shops. The lion above is one of a pair just outside the mansion’s entrance. And the snapshot at the very top was taken from one of the gardens.

Anyway, it seems these Vanderbilts are particular about their fancy stuff, as they don’t allow dogs in the mansion. Only service dogs, so we opted to leave our fellows to relax in the RV during our tour of how the other half lives.

On the rest of the grounds, we found it to be pretty darn dog friendly.  We stop for lunch on the patio at the Arbor Grill where Yaxley becomes a mini celebrity of sorts.

Two kids at a neighboring table come over to take photos of Yaxley.  Which became an open invitation for the junior paparazzi to swarm in. Digital camera flashes come from all angles as Yaxley turns his head from side to side to accommodate all his admiring shutterbug fans.

I’m tellin’ ya, it’s like hangin’ with a rock star

The Biltmore House has their own line of fine vino and I think a wine tasting will be a nice touch after lunch.  And Yaxley needs to check off Wine Shop on his socialization list. Um, again.

This really was a beautiful place at the Biltmore Estate; well worth the drive in the rattletrap RV to get here. Yaxley was warmly welcomed everywhere we went and, as his usual style, became a social bridge for us to meet some remarkable folk. Everyone is really just a fellow tourist, unless you have a caped dog with you. Then you find out that one fellow has a brother with a disability and would love to have more info on CCI. This young girl ruffling Yaxley’s ears just lost her thirteen year old dog she’s known her entire life and is missing her terribly. And that petite lady petting the pup is actually the mother of a famous Iditarod musher from Alaska.

Incredible to think of all the people we pass by with just a ‘scuse me.

Didja see it, food lady? Here’s that stuff you like.

I think I’ll close with a few images of our walking tour around the shops and farm.  Enjoy . . .

You know what, Cedric?  I think we’ll turn to stone before she throws that ball.

Hey! HEY!  Oh I get it.  Just ‘cuz you’re a Vanderbilt
you can’t talk to the working class.

Hey food lady, put down that wine bottle and lookit me!   
I’m on the wagon! 

Yaxley supervising the smithy

Showdown during an intense game of chicken.
The bird would have blinked first, but Yax said it didn’t have eyelids.

I have no fear of these spirits.

Color my world with dog

Yaxley says smells have a color.

Got another mind blowing factoid for y’all today.  Turns out that dogs can actually see colors; their world isn’t just shades of grey as we’ve been led to believe by modern folklore.  Now they are indeed colorblind in the literal sense that their optical spectrum filters out reds and greens, which could be why my little fuzzy friends don’t get so excited about our annual leaf-peeping road trip adventures. 

For curiosity’s sake, here’s a color spectrum from a study performed at the University of California, Santa Barbara that tested the colorblind theory.  The full article from Psychology Today can be found here.  It goes on explaining about cones and such.  What? Not enuf info for you?  Well then, grab a cup of coffee and  click here to read the actual study results.

Image from Psychology Today’s Canine Corner (click here for full article)

It’s a long way rattling down the highways to North Carolina from our Hershey PA campsite and we are compelled to stop for the occasional bio break for the dogs.  They leave their mark in three states before we even make it to the northern border of North Carolina. Ah, but now we come across a scenic overlook off the highway. Time for a mental break for us human beans.

Whacha all looking at?
Micron just doesn’t get it.

And we find ourselves reminded again to always have CCI brochures on hand.  Yaxley all handsome in his training cape attracts attention and some in depth conversations with the other leaf peepers hanging around the scenic overlook. I step away and leave the Husband to talk with these nice folk. He’s the people-person, I’m the socially awkward nerd. We are a fine team, we are.

Micron and Yaxley know what’s coming next. Food Lady is messing with that black box again, so it’s time to sit and put on a doggy smile. Even the onlookers remark on what pros these two are as they pose for the camera.  They’ve done this before, haven’t they?

Yes, my leaf peepin’ friends. Yes they have.

Both sides are my “good side”, you know.
I think Micron smells like a color.  Can you guess what it is?
Smile Yax!  Dang, you’re so serious.

Because the daylight hours are shorter this time of year, we stop before we can reach Asheville.  The Husband prefers not to drive the moving house through unfamiliar territory in the dark and I have total buy-in on that. That it’s tougher to do the RV hookups by flashlight nails the choice down.  I’ll go hookup the water and electric now.  Not at the same time, I hope, Honey.

We consult the camping guide and select Fort Chiswell RV Park to rest our weary wheels.  By the time the dogs are fed, watered and toileted, then our dinner is set steaming upon the dinette table, it’s nightfall. Not a good time to walk the campground and check out our surroundings.  Besides, we can get WIFI here and I’ve got to check the farm. Right, I mean email.

But the next morning, the pups and I are met with some glorious natural wonders.

These next set of photos were taken from the dog run area. A light fog, dewy grass and the sunrise all made for some dreamy shots.

 Next post: We take a look at how the other half lives.

Chocolate: it’s not just for breakfast anymore

Well, we were out roughing it again in the SWRCT* last week.  One more road trip in the creaky old RV before we set fire to the damn thing winterize it for the season.  (*SWRCTthe Six Wheeled Rolling Cat Turd. See previous posts Recipe Swap – RV Road Dawgs and  Top 10 reasons to take an RV vacation with your dog)

What’s that you say?  I must explain how vacationing in a portable house qualifies as roughing it? Yeah, yeah I know. We got us all the luxuries of home with beds, fridge, air conditioner, and a full bathroom all within 34 feet. The snack bar’s always open. Trendy sofa all extra cushy with stylishly matching dog hair. It’s not like we’re tent camping in the rain or something.  So, what else could a citified girl like me possibly want?

Right, first of all get this. It has a kitchenette, otherwise cleverly disguised in RV language as the galley. Whatever pleasant imagery that may come to mind with that galley word, what it boils down to (pun, ugh) is that I cook full meals in my teensy little traveling kitchen. On vacation, I remind you. Aw, but that’s not really so bad, truth be told. I like to cook almost as much as I like to stuff food in my mouth. It’s a sad fact that I collect cookbooks just so I can look at the color photos and pretend that it’s just one big menu.    

Put on your walkin’ shoes, Yax my love.
The outlet mall is just yonder those trees.

(A quick side note to the uninitiated. Regardless of however badly your weight loss program is going on your RV vacation, never ever fry fish in the galley.  It may be a moving house, but it’s only about 150 square feet of home sweet motorhome. Just sayin’.)

To summarize road adventures in the SWRCT,  it may be helpful to envision the thing as the ancient beast that it is.  This machine is older than my college kid. In dog years it should be dead.  But no, it lives on to sputter and cough down the highways of America. Every time we roll into a new town, I check for two things in the immediate area.  The nearest emergency vet should any of the dogs need care. And a Camping World so we can buy replacement parts for whatever is sure to fall off the flippin’ thing this time.

And this fall adventure gets it start in a big grassy field. No hookups at all, which means we’re on our own for clean water, grey and black water (don’t ask) containment, electricity and whatnot. That means no cable TV, people.  And absolutely inconceivable to me – no WIFI (think Wilhelm Scream sound effect). Ok, is that roughing it, or what? Believe me now?

Starbucks!  Internet access and a latte.
It’s gonna be a good day, Tater.

We’ve rolled into Chocolate World, USA.  This annual October outing to Hershey PA is to enjoy the flora and fauna of the Antique Automobile Clubs of America fall meet.  I’m sure there’s fun to be had over there across the street looking at other people’s old cars. And talking shop with the vendors with their arrays of used car parts all spread out on a blanket like it’s some kind of a rusty picnic lunch for Lightening McQueen and his pals.

Good times to be had, as is reported back to me. I haven’t actually been able to confirm any of those wild rumors. You see, I don’t venture out that way.  Instead, I put the working cape on Yaxley and we hoof it out to find a WIFI spot. And perhaps fit in a bit of shopping at the outlet mall just a short walking distance away.     

Yaxley is people watching outside
Starbuck’s window

Yax enjoys a quiet moment of introspection while I check email at Starbucks. Then we stop at Times to Remember shop to grab some Hershey specific scrapbook papers and such.  I’ll bring this new acquisition home and put it in the pile of stuff I bought last year. 

So, that’s us in the photo at the top of the blog post. Camper parking is across the street from from Hershey Park, which is cruelly closed for this weekend (see my lamentations from last year’s Hershey trip here at Ten Ten in Penn).

The SWRCT is in the foreground of the photo, just right of center. What, it’s too small? Can’t see it? No matter, I didn’t really intend for anyone to see the thing anyway.  Even from this distance.

Can we go now?

 But if you could actually make out the details, next to the RV you would find the Husband, Jager and our camping-in-the-field neighbor chatting in the comfy lawn chairs.  Our new friend is a body shop owner from West by God Virginia. A nice fella helping us to pass the time away during the long evening.
And I didn’t see this one coming . . . the guy is an appreciator of the arts as well. He bought a slew of pedal cars in various versions of customized rust patina with the intention of displaying them as a sculpture in his body shop back home. True story.

Recall now – we’re dry docked in an open field. No TV, internet or even Hershey Park to busy our minds with. So we find entertainment in other desperate ways. So things like this happen:

Objet d’art titled You’re not bringing that
into my house

Oh, but this is merely the first leg of our journey. More adventures to come as we travel further away from our Ohio base and into North Carolina.

We pack up the lawn chairs, give the pups a chance to do their business (I told you guys to go before we left the open field), and we’re off to rattle down I-85.

Or is it I-83?  Aargh, but I hate this navigator job.

Next post:  Heads up, Ashville. We’re coming to darken your doorway.

What walkin’ shoes? I’m a dog.

What is this? Not really sure, but looks to be some
kind of new and awesome ride for Hershey Park.
These were all over the field like a big yellow
obstacle course for RV’s.


I slipped in yet another obscure movie reference on you, so let me ‘splain this one. The Wilhelm Scream is a classic of sorts. Here’s a YouTube compilation of the popular cinematic “man being eaten by alligator” sound effect.

It was a dark and stormy night

 August 18 2011 . . .

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Storm’s coming in, says the Husband, I’m going to pull in the window awnings.  A storm?! Coo-ell. 

Okie dokie, I say, grabbing the Canon. I’ll be at the beach if you need me.

You know, my husband sighs a lot. And he knows there’s little to be done from me making one dopey decision after another. Not only am I just the tiniest bit stubborn, I’m also faster than he is. I’m already outside the RV, screen door slamming behind me before you can say certifiable.

But a storm! Besides pesky rain, storms also mean contrasting clouds and wonderful filtered light you don’t get on any normal sunshiny day. And normal this is not. There’s a beautiful coastal storm on the horizon here at Myrtle Beach. Once we’re back in landlocked Ohio, we won’t be seeing another one of these wonders until the next road trip down this way.

Oh, but let’s be clear on something. There’s a rather healthy amount of self-preservation running through my psyche. These swollen and rolling clouds are merely a harbinger of things yet to come. It’s not like I’m going to stand in torrential rain and risk getting the Canon (my preciousssss) wet. Now that’s lunacy, I say.  Naw, I just want to get out there and capture the mood before the heavens open up on us.

So I can get shots like this.

That’s not our sand castle masterpiece. Actually, I don’t know whose it is other than some Pirateland family who had the common sense to get back to their camper when the sky started to darken. 

The Husband stops at the beach to check on me during a potty break with the dogs. Micron!, I exclaim, Photo op time, my love!

A couple of quick shots with Sir Micron, brave knight and castle protector. Well, that was my vision. What really happened was more of a medieval-era Godzilla style rampage. I send the boys on their way back to the RV before the rain starts. I’m getting low on Febreze (Sunflowers! Sunshine! and wet dog), you know.

Humm, not only did we seem to lose the third castle tower here, but where did the sticks go?  Micron?

I got it!  I’ll protect your castle, m’Lord!  Oh. oops.

Me thinks the tavern wench was a little heavy handed
with the margarita salt

With the boys back in the RV, I start capturing the aura of the imminent tempest . . .

Not easy to see in the panorama above, but the dark section in the sand on the left is the sand castle creation from the first set of shots  On the right, you can see folk in the water, still fishing as the clouds move in. Silly people. 

Another wondrous thing about evening coastal storms are the sunrises the next day. Here’s a sunrise from a normal day, hazy and humid. Soft, pretty colors, but nuthin [yawn] special, really. 

This, however, is the stuff you get the morning after a good storm comes through.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Know what else is a rare wonder of nature; something you only see with that elusive, but magical combo of sun and rain?

Rainbows, that’s what. And this time  . . .

I found my pot of gold.

And this time, the treasure at the end is for me.


I’m rather excited about an improvement by our website host, Photos on the blog can now be viewed through Lightbox.  Just click on any of the photos to bring up a large screen view. You can navigate through all the images in the post from the Lightbox view. Very cool stuff indeed, especially for a nerd like me who likes to tell a story through pictures.

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