Out of Winter into Spring

Yes. That is snow outside of our camper! No. It didn’t snow overnight here in southern Pennsylvania. What you’re seeing is the last remnant of the most recent nor’easter that came through about a week ago. But still. It’s been cold enough that the remnants are still here. And yes, it was a little chilly overnight.

Snow at ACW.jpg

Today was to be a bit more of a drive compared to yesterday (360 miles compared to 275 miles), but still not a huge burden. That statistic fails to take Washington DC traffic into consideration, however. We did encounter very slow, very heavy traffic between DC and Richmond. Also, during the afternoon there was a pretty strong headwind, which made driving more of a hassle than it would otherwise have been. All in all, it was a draining day of driving. We arrived in Cary, NC at E & N’s home about dinnertime.


The new game that the kids were “into” now is called Sleeping Queens. Here’s E enjoying her first time with the game:

Sleeping Queens.jpg


Goodbye for Now

All good things eventually come to an end.  Today was our last full day in Raleigh.

This prompts a bit of reflection, and a lot of cleaning and packing. Although we technically didn’t have to, we chose to clean our apartment before leaving. After generating a month’s worth of dust and grime, we didn’t feel we should just walk away and leave it for our landlord to take care of. She’ll most likely clean it anyway, since she’ll be renting to someone else right away, it seemed like we ought to make it easier for her. Packing was also quite a chore. We have bought a few things while we’ve been here, most notably a 3” thick memory foam mattress topper, and consolidating everything so it will fit in the car was a challenge.

At first we were thinking that we’d do the 630-mile drive home over a two-day span, with an overnight in or near Gettysburg, PA. However, we began noticing winter storm watches for western NY for Friday. As today went on, the forecast got more and more bleak, with expectations of 6 to 10 inches of snow and high winds. That pretty much made it necessary for us to plan on a one-day drive so we could get home before the bad weather struck.

Since it was our last day, we had to spend the evening with the kids and grandkids. We provided pizza for dinner, I finished up the last of the home-repair projects, and we said our prolonged good-byes accompanied by abundant hugs and kisses.

It’s good that we didn’t have to drive on Friday, because when we woke up at home on Friday, what we found was this:

Snow at Home.jpg

Road Trip within a Road Trip

Since it was a bright, sunny, mild day, we decided to go for a drive. The nearby town of Fayetteville seemed worthy of a visit, so we headed south to go see it. We left home shortly after 11:00, which meant we got to Fayetteville after noon. We had a picnic “lunch” in the car and then got in on a 1:00 tour of a place called the 1897 Poe House.

Welcome to Poe House.jpg    PoeHouse.jpg

After the tour, we spent a bit of time in the local history museum before heading to the Airborne and Special Operations Museum. This is a collection of materials and stories related to the Army Rangers and parachuting squadrons. It was super interesting, but we only had about an hour there, so we had to be pretty selective about what we looked at. I focused on recent engagements: Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the war on terror.


Our dinner came from Fuller’s Old Fashioned BBQ Buffet. Elaine liked it a lot, but I was pretty disappointed. A lot of the food was very weird. Some of what was on the buffet I couldn’t even identify. The meats were excellent, but most of everything else was a disappointment.


I had found out about (yet another) bluegrass jam taking place on Tuesday nights in Garner from 7:30 to 9:30. Garner was on the way home from Fayetteville, and we worked out the timing so that we could get to the location as the jam was beginning. All I had to work from was an address. When we got to the address we found that it was “Lorraine’s Coffee House and Music.” What a surprise! There were quite a few people gathered together with their instruments. It was an open-mic style jam, and everyone took turns leading a song. It’s a good thing I’ve had experience with this sort of thing, so that I was prepared and knew what to do. I led “River of Jordan” and “I Am a Pilgrim.”

Lorraine's Sign.jpg   Lorraine's Jam 1.jpg

Lorraine's Jam 2.jpg .Jim at Open Mic.jpg


Birthday Girl!

E was calling the shots today, in honor of her birthday. The first thing we did was to have breakfast at the Gypsy Shiny Diner. This was a classic “diner” experience, right down to the presence of a juke box on each table with music by Elvis and other 50’s-era  artists.



After breakfast we spent some time at the local Habitat ReStore and the thrift shop next door. It’s interesting to note the differences in Habitat ReStores in different areas. At home, the Habitat store is about 50-50 building materials and housewares. Here it was almost entirely building materials.

Our daughter wanted to make dinner and a birthday cake for us, so we agreed and had dinner with the family. The grandkids were as sweet as could be, as they celebrated E’s birthday. K came up with the idea of having each person at the table tell the one thing they liked best about E.


Fa Sol La Mi?

Several years ago I heard about something called “shape-note singing.” I had only a cursory understanding of what it was, and it turns out that most of what I thought I knew about it was incorrect. One thing that is correct is that this is mostly a “southern” thing. Although the concept originated in New England, it was popularized throughout The South. It was developed and used to facilitate a-cappella worship singing. At various times on various trips in The South I have looked for opportunities to learn more about it and experience it for myself, but until today I had not succeeded.

There is a shape-note singing group in the Triangle area, and they meet on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Today was the fourth Sunday, and they were meeting in a small chapel in downtown Raleigh. I couldn’t interest anyone in going along with me, but this was something I had to attend! I had to find out for myself what this was all about.

There is still a lot I don’t understand, but here’s what I do know. The entire musical scale is represented by notes in the shape of triangles, diamonds, squares and circles. Each shape has a name: FA, or SOL, or LA, or MI.

Shape Notes.jpgSongs are written in four-part harmonies, and they are sung a-cappella. Since there is no instrument to play the parts, the shape notes make it easier for a singer to read his or her part. The songs are sung by all singers, each singing one of the four parts, from the first time through. There is no time taken to have someone sing or play each part individually. This first time through there is a singer who starts everyone off by singing the pitch for the first note of each of the four parts. Then everyone sings through the song once without using the lyrics. Instead of the lyrics, they sing FA, or SOL, or MI, or LA, for each note in the song. It sounds ridiculous. But after this one time through everyone seems to know their part, and they sing the entire song using the lyrics.

ShapeNote Singers.jpg

The songs are all hymns, but almost none of them are hymns that I was familiar with. They came from a hymnbook called The Sacred Harp.

Sacred Harp.jpg

This really was a history lesson for me, as well as a music lesson and a worship experience.  This form of singing has been in use in this area for over 200 years.

The singers sit in the four parts: bass, melody, alto and soprano. They sit in a square facing each other, all the members of a specific part sitting together. For each song, one member of the group is the leader. This person selects a song by number from the songbook, and then stands in the center of the square to lead the song. The pitch-giver gives each of the four starting notes, and everyone begins to sing. The leader conducts. Everyone is given the chance to lead a song, but you can pass when it is your turn. They continue to go around the room, so everyone has an opportunity to lead more than once. This goes on like this for two hours with only a short break after the first hour. (The leader-guy passed around throat lozenges during the break.)

The singers were not shy. They sang out with gusto! It was a beautiful experience to hear and participate in all of these lovely four-part harmonies.

At the end of the two hours everyone greets everyone with a handshake (not good during flu season) as they sing one final song.

The Handshakes.jpg

It was an absolutely amazing experience!!

Spring in the Middle of Winter

The municipality of Cary, which is where E and N actually live, is very spread out and “busy.” It covers a lot of ground, and most of it is businesses and services that the population depends on. There are a lot of high-density housing options like condos and townhouses. I found out today that there actually is a “downtown” Cary, and in this somewhat village-like area, there is a park called “Downtown Park.” (How appropriate!) Since the weather was gorgeous, we decided to spend part of the afternoon at this park.

Flowering Tree.jpg

I am amazed that spring comes so early here!

In the park, it was such a nice day that I could not resist the urge to busker. I sat on a bench and played my guitar (and even did some singing) and enjoyed entertaining folks as they strolled by. It was an amazing way to spend a springlike Sunday afternoon.


After our time at the park we went to E and N’s house and spent some time with the grandkids. I had been wanting to do some projects with the older two, and I had some nice little wooden “Build and Grow” kits that I had picked up at Lowes. I had a coin bank kit and a small birdhouse kit. I guided K in building the coin bank:

Kendall Building.jpg

I guided C in building the small birdhouse:

Caiden Building.jpg

No Shoes?

One of the main things we like to do when we travel is expose ourselves to the local music “scene.” If you read this blog regularly, you know that our taste in music trends toward Bluegrass, Old Time, and Gospel. We like to find music wherever we go, but it has to be down-to-earth, traditional stuff. North Carolina is, and has been for centuries, a hotbed for this sort of music. One of our very favorite bands, whom I discovered nearly 10 years ago, is a band called The Barefoot Movement. They are pretty young, which means that they must have been mere children when I first started following them.

In planning for this trip I scoured the websites of many of our favorite bands to find out where they would be when. I uncovered a few possibilities of places we could go to see some of our favorites. Unfortunately most of them were too far from Raleigh to really be practical. However, tonight Barefoot Movement was going to be playing in Chapel Hill, which is less than a half hour from where we’re staying. We had to go see them!

Since this is pretty close to their home turf, they were doing a benefit concert for a local church in Chapel Hill. That meant it was going to be a fairly small and intimate venue, and people would actually be paying attention to the music. (Instead of gabbing and being loud at a club.) Perfect!

Waiting for Barefoot.jpg
Waiting for Barefoot Movement

Noah, Tommy, Katie, and Alex did not disappoint. Their shows are always high-energy, passionate, and musically superb. They are all excellent musicians and entertaining performers. A lot of their stuff is original.


Sorry Alex

After the performance I got a chance to meet Noah’s mom and thank her for encouraging and supporting Noah’s musical career.