Savoy Stories

Thunk. Thunk. Thunkthunkthunkthunk.

And you just lay there in the tent hoping the ruckus outside isn’t wolves or bears or whatever the Berkshires equivalent of Pineys is.

Happily, the campsites at Savoy Mountain State Forest are in an old apple orchard, so the noise is nothing more than the normal sounds of September.

Savoy campsite

Savoy campsite

Savoy is my new favorite campground in New England. Aside from free apples, it offers a waterfall, mountain views, swimming, and trails all over the place. After a week of post-Irene rain, park access was challenging:

thwarted on the Mohawk Trail

thwarted on the Mohawk Trail

On Saturday morning, we traipsed through several miles of mud to see Tannery Falls.

Tannery Falls

Tannery Falls

On the way back, we accidentally found the so-called Shaker cemetery.

Shaker Cemetery

Shaker Cemetery

The afternoon hike was the Busby Trail to the top of Spruce Hill. It was a little hard to find the trailhead behind the hurricane-repair equipment.

Busby Trailhead

Busby Trailhead

But we found it and got to the top, despite my lack of altitude skills.

Spruce Hill

Spruce Hill

The best part of camping is after the exercise and the post-exercise shower. It’s the part where you light the logs, crack open a cold beverage, and start dinner. Instead of relying on the propane stove and the usual Trader Joes boil-in-bag fake Indian food, there was fire-friendly fare: tortilla pizzas and veggie packets.

dinner

dinner

And apples for dessert.

baking apples

baking apples

Mums of dooooooooom

2011 goes on record as being the best summer of my adult life. Easily.

The Pioneer Valley and surrounding hill towns are full of farms, rivers, campgrounds, festivals, and ice cream.  Mix in a dash of Vermont, a slew of visitors, and some Lititz fireworks, and these days are just about perfect.

Which is why, though I’m a lover of fall, I was sad to see some mums today.  One of many signs that the summer is winding down.

mums

noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Watermelon Wednesdays

About fifteen minutes from our Northampton apartment, past fields filled with little leaguers, past a lake, and down a twisty road is the Whately Chapel, facing a garden and a field of horses and cows.

During the summer, Wednesdays at the chapel are Watermelon Wednesdays. There’s music, bats, a dog, and, of course, watermelon.

Last night was Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum, traditional, bluegrassy folks with fiddles, mandolins, and a guitar.

It was a gorgeous evening, so everyone mingled outside the chapel until showtime.

Whately Chapel

Whately Chapel

The view from inside:

concert view

concert view

After the first set, there was just enough light left to go outside, eat the watermelon, and watch bats flying out of the belfry to snack on mosquitos.

watermelon intermission

watermelon intermission

I’m not a watermelon fan, so Type E ate my share and took me to Herrells after the show.

Bendystraw versus Steve Martin

According to this infographic of questionable accuracy, I prefer wine over beer and am less interesting than Steve Martin.

Fourth of July in Lititz, PA

Lititz fireworks

Lititz fireworks

In Lititz, PA the Fourth of July is a very big deal. Forget Christmas—Fourth of July is THE social event of the year in Lititz.

Volunteers organize several days of festivities in Lititz Springs Park. The Lions Club puts on the all-American small town parade. College students home for the summer reunite with high school friends. Parents tow wagons filled with babies dressed in red, white, and blue . This is Americana at its finest.

2011 marked the 200th July 4th celebration in Lititz (194th if you track by continuous years).

Friday night was the Independence Day Parade. My favorite part was the Rajah Temple String Band from Reading, PA.

Rajah Temple String Band

Rajah Temple String Band

Most kids are wise to the candy situation and bring bags to collect the loot.

parade loot

parade loot

After the parade, we all head down to Lititz Springs Park to do the Twist and the Hand Jive along with Flamin’ Dick and the Hot Rods, the popular, traditional pre-Fourth oldies band.

Saturday is The Big Day, starting with the National Anthem and Bell Ringing and ending with one of the best fireworks displays you’ll see anywhere. Seriously.

Actually, The Big Day starts at 8 AM, when people in the know begin hauling chairs and blankets into the park.  You can set up, leave, and return later in the evening, knowing your stuff will be untouched and waiting.

early bird chairs

early bird chairs

If you’re in the Park early, you can see a “before” glimpse of the upcoming candle display. At 8 AM, the only evidence is some wood over the stream and a few disgruntled ducks.

early morning in the park

early morning in the park

By early evening the candles are in place.

candles ready to go

candles ready to go

The lighting begins after the ultra silly Queen of Candles pageant.

lighting the candles

lighting the candles

This year’s schedule allowed for ample time to admire the candles before the fireworks started.

Type E photographs the candles

Type E photographs the candles

When men with leaf blowers come around to extinguish the flame, it’s time to find the folding chair or blanket you set up at 8 AM and wait for the fireworks.

waiting for the fireworks

waiting for the fireworks

In recent years, the always-spectacular Lititz fireworks have been kicked up a notch with the addition of sound. After all, Lititz is home to Clair Brothers Audio Systems, and they do it up right. Because 2011 was the 200th anniversary of the celebration in the park, the Clairs added even more speakers. Fireworks with surround sound!

Lititz fireworks

Lititz fireworks

Though there could have been a few more patriotic tunes, seeing fireworks perfectly timed to Bohemian Rhapsody in surround sound is pretty impressive. And the grand finale was Sousa—can’t argue with that.

Happy Fourth of July!

San Francisco, I love you!

One of my favorite getaways is visiting Superwoman in San Francisco. I was sad to see her leave Philly back in ’05, but she loves her new home and is a most amazing hostess and guide.

san francisco collage

trips past

During past visits, we’ve seen the required tourist sites, traipsed around a goat farm and had a cheese class in the loft of its barn, hiked around Mt. Tam, ending up at the German Tourist Club, gone ollalie berry picking, taken a mole cooking class, explored many neighborhoods, and drunk countless cups of coffee, glasses of wine, and pints of beer.

This trip started with the traditional soup bowl of nonfat latte. It’s completely ridiculous.

bowl of latte

bowl o latte

We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and up to Petaluma in search of cheese. Somewhere between Petaluma and Sonoma is the Green String farm stand. Friendly people, preserves stored in antique furniture, jazz on the record player, and a gorgeous backdrop.

Green String Farm

Green String Farm

One final cheese stop at Vella, and on to lunch at El Molino Central. Good mole!

El Molino Central

El Molino Central

After eating, we switched from cheese mode to wine mode and did a few tastings: Robledo, Schug, and Gloria Ferrer.

View from Gloria Ferrer

View from Gloria Ferrer

Then back to town for happy hour and an event that shall remain unnamed.

happy hour

happy hour

On Friday morning we had a few errands, so we got our ridiculous lattes to go.

Then we toured the Anchor Brewing Company and learned about steam beer, stopped by the kitchen of Kika’s Treats and learned about cheese bread, and ended the night at AT&T ballpark, where we learned about Giants fans (they like Panda hats).

Kika's kitchen

Kika's kitchen

Saturday was the required trip to the Ferry Building market. But first we fortified ourselves with ridiculous lattes.

latte showdown

latte showdown at Ritual

Upon arrival, we ate a ridiculous breakfast of chilaquiles.

chilaquiles

chilaquiles

Then we bought some ridiculous garlic.

elephant garlic

Superwoman inspects the elephant garlic

And looked at ridiculous cabbage.

torpedo cabbage

torpedo cabbage

We ended the market trip by purchasing a ridiculous amount of cheese from Cowgirl Creamery.

Cowgirl Creamery haul

Cowgirl Creamery haul

It’s very tiring, doing these ridiculous things, so we went back to Superwoman’s apartment and enjoyed some Sauvignon Blanc on the patio. From there you can see a glimpse of the bay while listening to streetcars, foghorns, and wild parrots.

Filbert Street

Filbert Street

Though I didn’t leave my heart there (I think it might be in Philly WTH?), I did leave some sights unseen and some wine undrunk, guaranteeing a speedy return.