Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dash Through New England - Part 1

One of the best things about farm kids is that they become pretty capable at an early age.  So while the 3 young ranch hands are home tending to things (with some help from their grandparents), Ranch Boss and I are on our first trip to the 
New England states.

And already...WOW.  We are impressed.

So here goes the first part of our route summary.  Hopefully it'll help if you get out this direction and trust our advice...

We landed at Newark Airport last night.  Old, icky airport, but the price was right so we won't complain.  We had some ground to cover in order to put us in a cool place to start today, so we headed north to Catskill, NY and stayed just long enough to have dinner on a very quiet Friday night at La Conca D'oro.  Great Italian food - the cornmeal crusted red snapper was awesome.  Then east to  Stockbridge, MA on backroads - trying to pretend we weren't missing anything too cool in the dark night. 

Along the way we booked our B&B for the night.  Thankfully, the kind folks at Conroy's answered the phone after 8pm and still had a room open.  This is Conroy's (above), an 1830s farmhouse built in the Federal style, tucked under a canopy of maples, just outside downtown Stockbridge in The Berkshires.  We enjoyed (translation: Keith endured) frittata, homemade granola, and fresh fruit for breakfast while visiting with a NYC psychiatrist and a college professor from Boston.  I had to wonder if they were disturbed that our jobs involve mud and manure...

By the way, this was our very first stay at a B&B.  Loved it.  If you find creaky doors, floors, and walls charming, and you don't mind breakfast at a small table with complete strangers, give a historic B&B a try.  Staying in an old house like that really takes you back to a simpler time.

Above, you'll see our first good look at New England fall foliage, taken in Stockbridge.  This was all it took to know we'll be coming back for more.  The best views are definitely on the back roads.

First Congregational Church of Stockbridge.

In one of the brochures at the B&B, a local hike in Stockbridge caught my eye.  I tried to persuade Keith it would be the highlight of our day; he wasn't convinced, but humored me anyway.  As it became apparent that this was the Massachusetts equivalent of Mount Peak in Enumclaw, Keith decided he'd better map out our day back at the car and let me run ahead.  He's thoughtful like that.  So run I did...over nearly a mile of fallen leaves...and I got to the top of Laura's Tower, the sound of my heartbeat in my ears, looking forward to the view the brochure had promised.

Well looky here...the top of the hill wasn't actually the top.  I guess the hike is called Laura's Tower for a reason.

"Do I drag my panting self up that thing and risk falling to my death while Keith sits in the car and grumbles that I always take longer than expected?  Or do I go back down and pretend I never saw this giant metal beast?" 

Well...I just couldn't resist.  As I reached the top, I considered calling Keith to come rescue me.  My knees were knocking up on that little platform and it was unclear as to how on earth I'd get down alone.

I stood for a few minutes...looked out over the incredible view...and finally, miraculously, talked myself into doing this thing.  Tonight, I read about Laura's Tower in another tour book...

"The tower's ladder, however daunting, is worth the anxiety."

I could not have given a better description.

Back to Stockbridge we went for a quick foot trip down Main Street.
Stockbridge is worth a visit.  Its buildings have been the subject of Norman Rockwell paintings.  The Red Lion Inn (above) was originally built in 1773, and is breathtaking. The Berkshire Cottages, turn-of-the-20th-century luxury summer cottages, were anything BUT "cottages" to us, and are a must-see.

Our next stop was the Hancock Shaker Village, just north in the town of Pittsfield.
This place was the highlight of Keith's day - a fully restored Shaker Village sitting on 1,200 acres in The Berkshires.  Above is a glimpse of a small garden shed there.

The kitchen was my favorite area.  Everything set up as if you'd see women in there preparing meals for the day.  The kitchen was just a small part of a gigantic 4 story brick building that also housed all the women and children.  Although the Shakers believed in equality between men and women, the women did all the cooking.

Check out this door handle.  We actually had the same handle in our room at the B&B.  Now this looks like something that could easily withstand 3 young ranch hands.  I've put in a request for new door handles when we return home.

And this is the round stone barn, built in 1826.  Keith is dreaming about this barn in his sleep as I type, I guarantee it.  Pictures of this barn don't come close to capturing its awesomeness.

Inside the top floor of the barn.  I'm going to put a flower arrangement in our barn back home and see how long it lasts...

The Hancock Shaker Village...go see it.

Next stop: Bennington, Vermont.
Yay, we're in a new state!  We read in some travel guide that Lil Britain Fish and Chip Shop was owned by a native British couple, and had exceptional fish and chips.
We agree.  Served up on paper plates alongside gravy in a little hole-in-the-wall cafe', these fish and chips are the best we've had to date.  Yes, ever.  And the locally brewed Vanilla Cream Soda and Root Beer are a bonus.

Check this out...another first for us...a covered bridge!  This one is just northwest of Bennington, and 2 other equally cool bridges are within a very short driving distance.  So awesome.

And in case you were wondering, this is what the inside of a covered bridge looks like.

First Congregational Church of Bennington.
Big, beautiful, historic church buildings are a dime a dozen around here.

From Bennington we headed northeast toward Woodstock.  We're a little late for fall foliage, but caught the tail end here and there.  This is some river alongside some back road on the way to Woodstock.  Isn't is beautiful??

And here is some lake on the same road heading toward Woodstock.  If we've missed the best fall foliage, I just can't imagine how much better it gets.  This is the last picture I was allowed to stop and take according to Keith. :)

Thankfully we stopped in Woodstock which meant I could take more pictures.  This is the Woodstock Inn and Resort.  I don't even have to tell you how awesome it is.

Woodstock is often referred to as the prettiest small town in America.
We would agree.

And here is Ranch Boss, walking as fast as he only does when he's overdue for a meal.  Can't you just tell that this town has some serious charm?

And I don't have any photo documentation, but we stopped at the Woodstock Farmer's Market on our way out of town.  It's filled not only with local produce, but endless displays of locally made goods...cheese, maple syrup, caramels, baked goods...the list goes on and on. If you stop, and you really should, the ginger molasses cookies are to die for (and have bits of fresh ginger in them), paired with a dark chocolate, salted caramel latte.  Yum.

About the time we left Woodstock, the rain began, and it's been raining ever since.  Did we bring it with us??  We headed northwest to Stowe, and landed here, at the Stowe Mountain Lodge.  Stowe sits in the heart of the Green Mountains, and is known as a popular ski resort town.  We've only seen it from our headlights so far, and can't wait for morning to come.  

So that's it for days 1 and 2.  We're so glad to be here.  I'm already trying to figure out how we can postpone our return trip to Seattle by at least a day...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I Need To Go For A Run...

"Hey hon, can you hurry home?  I need to go for a run."
"Son, can you get your brother ready for school?  I need to go for a hike."
"Do you have plans for us in the morning?  Because I REALLY need to go to the gym."

Those are typical statements my family has grown used to over the years.  And on rare occasions, after not getting my way and whining like a child, I stop to think of how ridiculous I must sound; my requests so twisted at times that my workout agenda trumps family time, important ranch work, and most of all, time with God.

Three times this week, yes THREE, I've been met with these verses.  I do believe God is asking for my attention:

"...Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness.  Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.  This is true, and everyone should accept it."   - 1 Timothy 4:7-9

And these are the footnotes that follow:

"Are you in shape both physically and spiritually?  In our society, much emphasis is placed on physical fitness, but spiritual health is even more important.  Our physical health is susceptible to disease and injury, but faith can sustain us through these tragedies... Are you developing your spiritual muscles?"

I'm challenged by these words.  Even among Christian friends, my social plate is heaped with talk of the gym, and races, and competitions, and the next best diet plan... and lightly seasoned with Jesus.  Don't get me wrong, I love all of those things, minus the diet plans, but Jesus has to come first, and very often doesn't.

What if tomorrow I was as distraught over missing a morning of time in God's Word 
as I was over missing a morning at the gym? 

What if I would admit that it's actually a case of selfishness and not need 
that fuels the grumpy girl who hasn't worked out in a few days? 

I guess it's pretty simple.  What if I let God come first each and every day, in ALL things, not just the areas I choose?  
What if we all did that?

It occurred to me tonight that, despite my attempts to convince Keith otherwise, God probably didn't design us with bodies that would require so much physical upkeep that our relationship with Him, and with our families, would have to be sacrificed.

Just to clarify, an anti-workout campaign this is not.  Not one bit.  Because we are also called to take care of our physical bodies; we can definitely serve God more effectively in a body that is strong and healthy.  But for those of us who love to work out, we have to remember that we live in a world of overindulgence, and it isn't limited to "unhealthy" things like over-eating and over-spending.  We may be guilty of it, too.

I don't plan to give up on running, hiking, or the gym anytime soon. In fact, chances are good that I'll be out there doing one of the three tomorrow.  But one thing is certain... I'll be setting aside the time to get in a spiritual workout first.