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Our Summer Excursion: Days 33-51 Elkins, WV

This is Our 2012 Summer Excursion series recapping our experiences from June 3-August 3 by time and location. Please let me know if you would like more details about anything and I will do my best to work them in or reply personally. Follow the TAG to get the full story. Maybe I will get through the whole trip before 2013 (it’s NYE, so maybe not)!


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D33: July 4 should have been full of fireworks and bbqs and flags and maybe even parades, if you have some sort of traditional holiday flair you follow. While I am not into tradition, it was great to have been invited to a block party on our first day in a new town that had all of the above. As our history would have it, we lived in Buckhannon, WV (west of Elkins) for two years, and I worked in Elkins for part of that time. We met some great people and fell in love with this mountain community before moving to Huntington six and half years ago. One of those great people, Beth King, handles the community arts center, where I worked. She invited us to the block party! Hurray for Beth! As time would pass, many of those faces would cross our path again at the bookstore, bike shop, tennis camp, grocery, and on the street. A small town intimacy; warm and welcoming.

D34-49: The four children and I filled our days as best we could while Brent worked 12-14 hour days. We dined together as a family every night in the Davis & Elkins cafeteria and enjoyed breakfast at the Graceland Mansion every morning. Lunch was a toss up. Some days we had lunch together, and some not. Having the opportunity to be on campus with him for those weeks was invaluable to the children and for our relationship. I may not have been able to get any time away from the children, but knowing I might get 30minutes of shared parenting a few times a day gave my mommy voice a rest, and let me close my eyes just a bit to the hyper-vigilance we kept while living in a hotel. Last year we stayed in Huntington while he worked the Governor’s School for the Arts. It wasn’t impossible for me, I enjoy temporary challenges such as these, but it wasn’t ideal.

To make this entry less cumbersome, you can browse the photo gallery below, complete with captions, of our Elkins stay. It covers what we ate since we didn’t have a kitchen, how we kept our sanity living in one room, with two beds, the local bike culture, where we spent our money on extra-curriculars for the children, our geocaching finds, the views, the people, the fluff.

Spoiler: In terms of bicycling, Elkins was the best! We never drove in town, we didn’t need to, everything was very, very close to where we were staying. We walked most places and biked when we needed/wanted to save time/have more fun. I never saw another child on bikes outside of the bike parade and the park. I rarely saw other riders in general. Not sure why. Maybe they are more of a walking community? It was ideal for us. I was so spoiled, that thinking about going home to a 2.5mile ride to grocery was daunting.

I drove to Beverly twice, 10miles south of town for London’s Girl Scout camp, and utilized a carpool for her other trips to camp. Otherwise, the van just sat in the parking lot until the day we left. It even attracted ants. Ever have a vehicle with a pest problem?

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D50-51: The day before the summer program ended we were presented with a room charge for some of the damages the children inflicted on the hotel. It’s an unsettling story involving play dough in the carpet and a five year old who wet the unprotected mattress, (I don’t want to get into details but feel welcome to ask me about it anytime. Great reason to invite us over, stop by, or meet up, eh?).

So on day 50, Saturday July 21, the program ended. We had the car packed up and we drove off to Buckhannon for dinner and a drive around our old stomping grounds. We booked a hotel in Charleston, WV, an hour from home, so we could swim and jump on the beds and decompress before tossing our house sitter out one more time before our full Summer Excursion would end.

Our plans to bike and camp the Greenbriar Trail system with friends never came together. Brent was concerned about work at Marshall and an exhibit he was invited to participate with at the Clay Center. We headed home before our beach trip. I was glad we weren’t out on the trail, post derecho, in the rain, as forecasted, but I wasn’t happy to be going home. My heart is with my family and friends (new and old), following a map around the country side, city scape, coast lines, and mountain towns. Such a gypsy.

Conclusions
That’s Elkins in a blog-post nutshell. Wasn’t it dreamy? Next up, our spat at home and our last week on the road, in Charlotte, NC and Myrtle Beach, SC.

Note: I tried to include as much photography as I could, but I left out a great deal! I don’t know where it went. Maybe on the phone? Anyway. It was fun, fabulous and we hope to have more of the same again. More small spaces, more outside adventures, more new people, more crazy.

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Yuba Bread Basket

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The Bread Basket, fresh from the shipping box. More on that custom liner later (it’s amazing, right?!). I don’t think this basket could do all I ask of it, without that liner.

When Oliver went into the doctor for a diagnosis of hand foot and mouth disease a month or so ago, we got his weight. 32 pounds. The iBert front mount seat limit is 38lbs. We were getting close to that magic number. I’d also noticed his feet were laying on top of the iBert leg bottoms. He was just not fitting as best he could.

I absolutely love having my little boy at my chest. We have the best time. He sleeps on my signaling arm, I can wipe his nose and tuck him in. We hoot and holler at the same sights. It’s special. And it might be, that until you have ridden with your children in front of you, it doesn’t have the same sentiment.

Even when they get older, many family riders report they just like having their children in front the best. My yearning for a box bike with electric assist aside, we put the Peanut Shell back on my cargo bike and ordered a Bread Basket to make up for the cargo space lost by the child seat legs.

The Bread Basket has been very handy. We installed it on Friday morning. The arms of the basket didn’t line up well with the holes in the frame, but with muscle and might, we managed to get it together. Then we put it to good uses all weekend, as well as Monday for meal swap, yesterday for groceries and library books, and today for some wayward fall leaves.

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Inaugural ride to soccer practice Friday night, in a light drizzle/mild rain.

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Brent took two boys to a pumpkin carving event at the AD Lewis center on Sunday. Less cargo under little legs by putting the squash in the basket. Brent mounted my light on the bottom of the basket. It functions well there, but I can’t reach it while riding.
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Large Thirty One insulated market tote was a perfect fit. 12 pieces of glassware full of this week’s meals.
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Two pockets sewn into the liner, perfect for cell phones, keys, garage door opener, and the miscellaneous. One cup holder, that is better suited for a travel mug with handle to slip over the basket side, but keeps my water upright well enough, and with in reach.
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Bringing groceries home via PATH yesterday. Also tossed in our jackets.
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Must have been shopping while hungry. Overloaded the bike (see the bag wrapped on my saddle?). I was also traveling with two guests from warmshowers.org, who kindly took a few extra bags for me as well.
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Library book cart. New Sprocket Podcast sticker as a souvenir of our time with Brock! You should have a listen, and not just to us, his entire show line up is worthy of your laundry folding/lunch packing/tube repairing/weed pulling time.

Celebrate Bicycling

May 1 three children and I rode downtown to celebrate the end of 30 Days of Biking and the beginning of National Bike Month along with the National Bike Challenge. Brent met us there from work. London was riding with the neighbors who were going to feed the ducks and have a family dinner.

I am usually excited to see bikes locked up at the racks, but it’s not often I the owner. When I spotted this family across the way I had to say hi. I was a bit surprised none of the four had helmets, but understand the illusion the trailer can give to safety.

Once Brent was done threading a lock through our three bikes, we walked around the back of Pullman Square to Harris Riverfront Park. The city has been doing a lot of street improvements and we noticed the curb cuts and new cross walk lights immediately. We have previously had some issues at this intersection with automobile drivers on cell phones when trying to get to the park, and appreciate the safety update.

We found London down at the dock, with the neighbor and two of his daughters, feeding the ducks. We stole her and her bike away from her friend and headed back up to Pullman Square for our dinner and promised rewards.

While there are many great locally owned places to eat downtown, we settled on Unos Pizzeria. It was probably one of the worst cases of over-eating I have committed in quite some time. I wasn’t able to enjoy either the Tropical Moon destination Brent took Elliot and Oliver to, or the Cold Stone Creamery stop I treated Avery with on the way to the Pottery Place for London’s reward. Stuffed.

Spotting our neighbor's bike and another commuter bike as we went to the Pottery Place.

Since we were downtown directly after school, and not on a Sunday, Avery and I left London to her painting and walked over to Mug & Pia. I had been trying to get into this store for months (maybe even years). I have a hankering for some everyday stationary and heard they had a good selection. They did, but I was more excited to see Etta’s dad’s stuffed creature collection being sold here. He is probably my favorite local artist, and not because he allows my son to have play dates with his daughter.

Brent made it back to the Pottery Place and I left him with everyone but Oliver and then walked back across the street to Soma. One of the troubles I have had with staying downtown for my retail purchases has been undergarments. If you need bras and underware, you can go to the Family Dollar or you go to Barboursville for a Walmart, Target, Kmart, or the mall. It’s not only location that is troublesome, it’s size. I am nearly breastless. Those four babies have left me with the option of ordering very expensive custom sizes online or finding a decent store that can give me a lot of assistance negotiating what is available. Soma did just that. I am grateful they decided to open a business downtown. It had been three and half years since I purchased bras, and I only bought two at the time, they were spent.

Enough with the boob talk, on to the rest of our outting.

With the painting of pottery done, the eating of ice cream over and the purchasing of new delicates (this could read, with our wallets lighter), we headed for the bikes. The sky was giving us a “time is up” dance, with darkening clouds and a setting sun.

At the last block I let Elliot ride on ahead home, and Avery wanted off the deck to race him on foot. Oliver felt he should be allowed as well and slid his shoulder straps off. I used the old “car won’t start if your belts are not buckled” trick my grandma used on us when we were little. The bike stopped until he was tucked in tight again. With Avery off the bike, I was able to provide Oliver with the race he needed be entertained that last block. What a difference 50lbs can make.

Stormy Walk and Grocery Ride

Thursday was looking scary. Thunderstorms, brewing skies, reports of morning hail. Brent headed into work during a lighter spell and the boys (baby L., Oliver, Avery, and Elliot home with a tummy ache) and I alternated between tidying up for a showing and playing games to pass the time.

The rain had stopped for a moment in the afternoon. When it was time for us to leave the house I put the baby in the front pack, Oliver in the single stroller and the other two walked with us around the corner to Baskin Robbins.  We average two visits a year, and considering it’s a block and half, this requires a lot of will power fueled by a tight budget.

Sitting inside the shop enjoy our four cones ($13!) the skies grew dark once again and then broke open. The owner offered us a ride home in his truck. Sweet offer really, but we came prepared with rain coats and an extra blanket for the baby. I have yet to buy an umbrella, and how would I hold it and push the stroller? Umbrella hats back in fashion yet?

We made it home with rain drops on our clothes, but nothing soaked through, as we waited for the storm to let up just a bit before heading off. Avery was humored that no one was struck by lightening.

By the time Brent returned from work the rain had moved on and the air was still warm. We packed up the family that remained with us (London was at a sleepover and Elliot had been picked up by friends) and rolled off for the grocery. The photo above was taken from PATH, showing the Four Pole Creek as a result of the heavy rains.

Brent's been trying to film for Liz Canning!

Oliver fell asleep (no nap prior). We found enough food to get us through a couple of days, picked up Elliot, and all rolled on home.

How are your gas prices? My mom called to see if she was the only with gas at $3.80/gal. Yep, it's high here too, but I don't mind :)

Brent loaded his panniers too. The autumn floral bag was a thermal tote gift from baby L.’s mom. It’s turning out to be the perfect size for our Freeloaders. It was full of milk, ice cream, cheese, and bacon. The Grape Nuts were $2.19 a box, and they happened to be Brent’s favorite, so I treated him. Turns out everyone in the house, except me, likes Grape Nuts, so they won’t last long. This was an enjoyable light trip. Avery was on the deck, Oliver in the iBert, no milk crates today.

The FoodFair Scene


It is usually I who stuffs a list in Brent’s hands as he is walking out the door and last night the rolls reversed. After a long thread (56 comments deep) on the Create Huntington (CH) page this week, that began talking about a shop local incentive program and morphed into folks wanting a Whole Foods or Trader Joes, I promised my friend Cara I would check out the largest locally owned grocer, FoodFair.

Part of my reasoning was they might have a bike rack. I have never approached Kroger about installing a rack because part of me fears they will place it out in the lot and I will have to give up my primo-covered-door-front spot. The other reason for not asking, is that I have always felt it would be a selfish request. Reading the CH thread, it seems I should ask anyway because perhaps the introduction of a bike rack would nudge consumer thinking toward riding a bike. Does the mere sight of bike rack have this power? I never noticed racks, or the lack there of, until after I was already riding.

The other reason for checking out FoodFair was for this blog specifically. In six years living here, I have never stepped into a FoodFair, simply because their sales flyer was not advertising items at a lower price than Kroger. Certainly if price were all I was concerned about then I would frequent Walmart more often. FoodFair is on the corner block across from Kroger, and Walmart is a bus ride or drive situation. Given FoodFair is very accessible, I gave it a try last night.

There was not a bike rack and the front columns were too large to lock up to, so I settled on locking to the propane tank bin. This would not be good for other customers, but it was nearing 10PM so I felt it would be fine this time. The actual store surprised me with it’s size, cleanliness and abundance of merchandise. It was just a grocery store, but it felt larger than the Kroger we were currently shopping and seemed to have an equal selection. This might have been the great illusion of good lighting and wider aisles, but I enjoyed it. Have you shopped in a FoodFair?

My shopping list last night was short, so I didn’t get the full scope of whether FoodFair would meet all my family’s needs, both in products and in price. I was pleased to find both soy and almond milks, as well as natural peanut butter, a small selection of gluten free and diabetic options, some natural foods, wide variety of produce, bird seed, and some bulk items (as in commercial sized, not as in big bins you scoop a scant quantity from). This grocer certainly warrants another trip from this six.

 

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