Saturday, October 22, 2022

Girls Weekend 2022. Headed home.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

(written by Kathi)

The end of Girls Weekend is always bittersweet. Lori and I have perhaps missed those we have left at home but have enjoyed being together so very much. We can never believe that it’s time to go home, but alas, today was the day. We were up by 7:00 to dress, pack, and strip our beds. Next we tackled the kitchen, cleaning up and packing up lunch and snacks for ourselves to have at the airport and on the plane. We made quick work of that and had an hour and a half to sit down, journal, and reflect on the great experiences we are always able to have on these trips.

the approach to Chicago on Lori's flight

At 10 am we loaded up and headed for the airport, stopping halfway there to fill the gas tank and wash and vacuum the car. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, thank goodness, as the signage at the Philly airport absolutely sucks. For whatever reason we were not allowed to park in B terminal, from which both of our flights were leaving. It took 30 minutes to navigate the poorly marked path to another parking area, but finally we were inside the airport. We usually fly different airlines home, but every once in a while we get to delay our goodbyes and hang out in the terminal together, and we very much enjoyed that time. My flight left two hours before Lori’s, and once they called boarding for my flight we said our final goodbyes and I watched Lori head off to her gate.

Thank you, God, for blessing us year after year with this opportunity. South Carolina, here we come!

Girls Weekend 2022. A Hike in Brandywine Creek State Park and a visit to Nemours Estate

Brandywine Creek State Park

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

(Lori is writing today's entry!)

The last full day of Girls Weekend 2022.  Always a bittersweet day.  Sad to see Girls Weekend come to an end, but also ready to get back home to our regular day to day lives and to our families.

Mornings are nearly always the same on Girls Weekend. We get up and make our beds (every morning, we make our beds, no matter where we are), then sit down to our computers with a cup of coffee (sometimes tea) and check emails, social media and journal about our adventures.  We switch off the journaling, each of us doing every other day because we tend to be a bit wordy (you think?), and it takes quite a bit of time to gather our thoughts and to do a good job of describing our days.

When planning today after returning from yesterday's adventure, we decided we were going to go big and do a hike in Brandywine Creek State park and visit the third DuPont mansion that is Wilmington, Nemours, so that we could say that we had seen them all!

We decided to do the hike first.  It was, once again, a beautiful fall day and in a beautiful place. It was a little chillier today than it had been toward the beginning of the week, but after getting chilled yesterday, we both wised up and added another layer.  We did about a 2 mile loop hike where we were down by the creek on the way out and a little uphill on the way back.  Not long after we started the hike, Kathi stopped and was reading a sign that was on the trail, while Lori got waylaid by some mysterious white things on the branches of a tree.  Unsure if they were living things or little balls of white, fluffy stuff that had fallen from the treetops we took a picture and ran it through Google Lens (this is a fabulous tool one can use to help identify just about anything) to discover that these were, indeed, living creatures.  Woolly aphids. Kind of creepy, really.

woolly aphids

Once we finished the hike, we drove to Nemours Estate, to visit the third of the DuPont mansions and gardens that the family built in Wilmington.  The mansion has 77 rooms sprawled out over 47,000 square feet surrounded by 200 acres of French Gardens and grounds.  The gardens here are formal gardens, unlike the "gardens" at Winterthur.  Winterthur's gardens don't look like what one thinks of as traditional gardens.  The landscaping there, while deliberate, looks very wild and natural while Nemours' gardens, while spectacular, look more like what most folks think of when hearing the word "garden".

The mansion here is stunning.  And most of it is open and one can walk around pretty freely from room to room.  Each room or area has a docent that gives you information about the room one is in, in particular, along with with  information about the house and its occupants, in general.  I lost count of the number of bedrooms, but, with the exception of one pair, each had its own bathroom.  I also lost count of the number of spectacular chandeliers that are in the home.  It is said that the chandelier in the dining room once hung in the childhood home of Marie Antoinette.

It is stunning.  And there was not a speck of dust in the place.  Apparently a 3-man cleaning crew comes in EVERY day to clean and the place is closed for something like one full month of year for a deep clean, where every little piece on every chandelier is cleaned.
the mansion at Nemours Estate

We had been told by the woman who sold us our tickets to be sure and check out the basement.  She said this was her favorite floor of the house, so after touring the main floor we made our way downstairs before going upstairs.  Once there, we could see why this was her favorite floor.  One half of it is where all the equipment to run the furnace and the water is located, along with an ice room, where ice was made for the kitchen coolers, while the other half was Alfred DuPont's man cave.  This section has a dark room, an exercise room, a sauna, a billiards room, a two lane bowling alley along with his office.  One hallway holds his collections of items that interested him that didn't fit with the decor of the main living space of the home.  Things like armor and model boats.

From the basement we went up to the top floor where the bedrooms are located.  We had to go through fairly quickly because we were, once again running out of time and we wanted to have time to explore the gardens. The bedrooms were beautiful and the windows had magnificent views of the gardens.  We exited the mansion and wandered the gardens, which are absolutely beautiful.

Unfortunately, time ran out on us and the woman we bought our tickets from earlier in the day came to pick us up in a golf cart so they could close the gates.  On the ride back to the exit she told us stories of people hiding on the grounds in an effort to spend the night there (probably up to no good).  She said every inch of the grounds is monitored by cameras and anyone caught on the property after closing was arrested.  She also told us that one night a black bear somehow made its way onto the grounds and had to be removed.  

Once we left the estate, we made our way back "home" where we settled in for an evening of television and journaling.  We tossed the remaining 2 states SEVERAL times and each time they either both landed face up or both face down.  We were about to toss them once again when Lori's daughter, Meg, called.  After chatting with her a bit, Kathi put one state on the windowsill and another on the TV stand and told Meg to pick windowsill or table and whichever piece was on what she chose, would be where we go next year.  Meg chose the windowsill, which held the South Carolina piece, so South Carolina it is next year!!

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Girls Weekend 2022. Tuesday, October 18. Ladew Topiary Gardens, Monkton, Maryland

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

(written by Kathi)

Today we were up at 7:30 and spent the morning journaling and listening to music. Lori always brings her Alexa and we take turns asking for music genres. This morning the choices were Motown, 1960s music, 1980s R&B, and Cat Stevens. We clearly seek variety in our listening! Breakfast was yogurt, granola, and fruit—we ran out of eggs and it’s too late in the week to buy more because we won’t be able to eat them all before we leave. After a while we started the “ok, time to get ready” routine of showering, dressing, and making lunch. Megan, our new friend, arrived before noon and parked in our driveway. She joined us in our car, and we were off on today’s adventure.

It’s Maryland day! At first we thought we would go to Baltimore for the day, but we decided not to deal with any traffic, and we knew we would spend hours and hours there. As we age, we have definitely had to acknowledge that spending a 10- or 12-hour day out and about constantly moving means that my ankle and Lori’s knee will be very angry the next day. So, we decided to rethink our plan. We always enjoy gardens (and you can usually sit down somewhere and take a break in them when you get tired, and Lori had found what appeared to be an interesting spot—Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, Maryland.

I was driving and Lori was navigating. Megan was in the back seat. Lori and I had a great time grilling Megan about her life as a dresser on Broadway, and also about her many travels. We learned that Megan, who is also trying to get to all fifty states, has a wee bit different outlook than we do on what criteria is required to cross off a state. Lori and I will call a state done as long as we spend a good number of hours . . . say, five or more.. . .  in it experiencing something unique to that state. Like driving through beautiful countryside to spend a few hours in a topiary garden, you know, something like that. However, Megan—who is apparently a severely overachieving millennial—does not cross a state off her list until she has done or seen everything in it that appeals to her. Yikes! And when we thought about how she was a rock star in the Escape Room last night, we definitely could have felt inferior. Instead, we’re just happy there are people with that much energy and drive left in the world. It gives us hope! Go, Megan! Meanwhile, we are definitely crossing off Maryland today.

The drive was supposed to be less than 90 minutes, but a series of events conspired to add a bit of extra time. First of all, we were talking a mile a minute as soon as we set off. Siri got ignored a couple of times, turns were missed, and she had to reroute. This happened more than once; I would even say it happened a few times. When we missed some direction or another, we never turned around to go back, we just let Siri do some rerouting.  It’s a great feeling to not have to rush to be somewhere, and just go with the flow. This strategy, combined with deciding to stop at a gas station to go to the bathroom and get some snacks and drinks, resulted in adding slightly over an hour to our drive.

We weren’t worried about any of these things, because Lori had informed us the gardens were open until 9:00 pm (we figured they must be really well lit or something.) We did not arrive at Ladew until 2:30 pm. No matter, we had all kinds of time. So, we got out of the car and were walking up to buy our tickets when we saw the sign that said the gardens would close at 4:00 pm. And it was a permanent sign, it wasn’t like there was a wedding or something and they had to close early. Poor Lori was so confused. She was positive the website said 9:00. God clearly wanted us to have that great time in the car, and we weren’t supposed to have a lot of time to enjoy the topiary. This was proven when, after we had found a beautiful little area with some benches where we ate our lunch, the sun went away for good, and the day turned very chilly.

We very much enjoyed exploring the gardens; there were still many flowers in bloom and there were some wonderfully fun topiary art pieces. As we walked around we saw so many clever bush carvings of animals, people, and geometric shape groupings. The gardens also had beautiful mature trees, fountains, and a quaint little wooden tea house the owner had brought back from London (not a miniature, a full sized tea house. Think large backyard shed sized.) By 4:00 we were downright cold and could not have stayed outside another minute. We gratefully piled back into the car and headed home . . . directly home this time, not the circuitous route.

Back at our Airbnb we bid Megan goodbye and safe travels (she had to drive back to NYC the next day) and went inside. I cooked dinner (chicken breasts, carrots, and more couscous) and we ate while watching some TV. Oops! We forgot to toss the states tonight. Actually, the real story is that since Lori fell asleep on the sofa and then got up only long enough to stagger off to bed, there was not really an opportunity to toss them. We’ll just do it tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Girls Weekend 25. Monday, October 17. Back to Hagley

Lori on the bank of the Brandywine River

When we were mapping out our plan for our week here, we planned on today being a "rest" day. Partly because we just don't have the energy and stamina that we had in our younger years and partly because rain was in the forecast for today.  Instead, we opted to return to Hagley Museum because we felt that we missed so much there when we went on Friday, so that became the plan for the day. Ultimately, we were so glad we made that change in our plans because, while a bit cooler, it turned out to be a beautifully stunning day. We are often blessed with amazing weather while on these trips and today was no exception.

The morning was spent catching up on e-mails as well as catching up with the rest of the world on our laptops.  After another round of cheesy scrambled eggs for breakfast, courtesy of Lori, we showered and got ready for our further exploration of the grounds of Hagley.  Kathi made the turkey and cheese sandwiches for lunch today, packed them up along with some potato chips and Chips Ahoy chunky chocolate chip cookies and out the door we went.

Upon arrival, we first went into the gift shop for a browse around since we were able to spend so little time there on our original visit. We agree that museum gift shops are often the best because they tend to have unique and unusual items for sale. This one proved that theory to be true.  Lori bought a couple of packs of photo-sensitive paper, sold under the name of "Suntography" that can be used to produce cyanotypes. Basically you place the object of your choice on the paper (leaves, for example) expose it to several hours of sunlight, rinse with water and you will have a bluish toned print of the object on the paper.  Lori bought a kit for both herself and her 4 year old grandson Beckett and looks forward to playing around with it.

We left the gift shop, and after dropping off our purchases in the car, started walking up the road. This was the same road that the shuttle used on Friday to take us to the mansion. The road passes the powder yard where E.I. du Pont founded a gunpowder works along the shore of the Brandywine River in 1802. This was the part of this site that we returned for.  Between the company’s founding in 1802 and 1840, the yards expanded twice to include three dams, upper and lower mill races, dozens of mill buildings, and over a mile of infrastructure, much of which can still be seen today.  Throughout the walk through the yards one can see 19th century machinery in the machine shop, waterwheels and turbines powered by the river and the historic stone structures where the powder was manufactured. 
the row of stone structures where the powder was manufactured

The stone for these structures was all quarried from the property and is beautiful blue gneiss. So the powder works employed not only powder men, but also quarry workers, farmers and teachers, to name a few.  It was essentially a small community unto itself.

We walked along the river exploring all of the buildings that were open and available to us. Most of the buildings no longer house the equipment used to produce gunpowder as the federal government came in and took nearly all of the metal they could get their hands on in order to produce weapons for World War 2.  There is a quiet, haunting quality and beauty to these empty stone structures.

There is one black powder roll mill left on the property which is currently down for maintenance, but when working they run for demonstrations. The roll mill utilizes two 8 ton rolling stones in a large wooden bowl where the ingredients to make the black powder, (charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter) were ground together.  Producing black powder was a dangerous business and during the years that the powder yard was in operation there were 288 explosions and 228 deaths.

the roll mill

the tools used to add the ingredients to the bowl

In 1920 an explosion involving 50,000 to 75,00 pounds of powder caused major structural damage throughout the site and the resulting shockwave was felt in Northern Delaware, Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia.  For reference, one ounce (30 grams; think a tube of hydrocortisone cream) of black powder could hurl a 24 pound cannon ball 225 yards or more. The damage wrought by this explosion was too much to overcome and brought about the demise of the powder mill.  While the DuPont company continued to make explosives until 1981, it was no longer the focus of the company whose products now include Kevlar, Tyvek and Styrofoam to name a few.

Due to the danger and risk involved with working in the powder mill, most locals were too afraid to work there so DuPont brought many workers to this country from Ireland and Italy, offering good wages, affordable housing, savings plans and insurance for the workers' families.  Uphill from the powder yard are several residences as well as a school in the Workers' Hill Community, where many of the workers lived.

After looking around many of the powder yard buildings we went back to the car to grab our sack lunches and eat at picnic tables near the gift shop.  While there, a couple joined us at the picnic tables for their lunch and we struck up a conversation with them.  They were visiting from New Jersey and told us of many great places to visit in New Jersey should we have time.  They mentioned Cape May, Lewes as well as Rehoboth Beach in Delaware.  Unfortunately we don't have enough time to visit any of these places, but will definitely keep in mind for any future travels to this area.

We then returned to the powder yard via a path that was further up the hill but paralleled the riverside trail so we could continue our exploration and attend the demonstrations.  This trail took us through the woods above the powder yard, affording us a different view of both the powder yard and the Brandywine River.  

We arrived just in time for the 3 o'clock demonstration at the machine shop.  Many of the machines used during the productive years of the powder mill are still here and it was fascinating to see them and how they were powered by water.  After looking around the shop itself for a bit, the guide pointed out the main power shaft that was overhead in the building from which all of the machines in the shop were made operational through various levers, pulleys, gears, inclined planes, and wheels and axles once the main shaft was set into rotation by opening the mill race and allowing water in to turn the turbines.  We stepped outside where he showed us the mill race and how it was connected to the shaft which was set in motion by the water. 

the machine shop

the mill race

the rope and wheel system that power the shaft

Once the demonstration was over, Kathi and another young woman stayed behind to ask questions of the guide regarding how some of the mechanisms worked.  The young woman, Megan, then joined us for the rest of the demonstration which included an explanation of how the mill race at the powder mill operated a turbine, which in turn operated the rolling stones that mixed the ingredients that the powder was made of. Unfortunately the turbine is not currently working, likely due to debris from recent flooding being stuck in it, so we were not able to see a working demonstration of this process.  We were, however, able to see a demonstration of the explosion that one ounce of black powder can produce when lit.  Not only was the explosion loud, but it also created quite a bit of smoke!

With about 30 minutes left before the buildings all closed we made our way back to the visitor center where the "Nation of Inventors" exhibit is located. We HAD to browse here, since that was what first peaked our interest about this place!  The small working models of various inventions was quite fascinating.  As we were being shooed out of the building at closing time, we mentioned to Megan that we were doing an escape room at 6pm and asked if she would like to join us.  She said that she had never done one, had always wanted to do one and agreed to become part of our team.

Our new friend, Megan!

The Escape Room: Criminal Capture-The Zodiac Killer

Any of you who follow Girls Weekend and read our journals from year to year know, that while we really enjoy doing escape rooms, we seem to be not so great at getting out of them! With the advent of COVID, most escape rooms no longer just throw a bunch of people together to reach the maximum number of people allowed in the escape room.  We have found, however, that the more people who are working the clues and who work as a team, the greater the chance for success. This being said, we were very excited that Megan accepted our invitation and agreed to join us so we would have three brains working on the clues rather than just two and she proved to be a HUGE asset!  While Kathi and I seem to have spent the majority of the hour decoding four ciphers that we found (that proved to be mostly useless!), Megan was solving most of the clues using tidbits of information that we were able to throw her way along with finding answers on her own.  The premise of this escape room was to thwart a serial killer, who had already claimed 4 victims, using the clues scattered about and hidden away in his cabin where he hid out and kept "trophies" from his kills.  We were ONE clue away from breaking the case when we ran out of time.  So, once again, even with the help of our new friend, Megan, we failed, but we still had fun trying!!

the crime stopping team

While chatting with Megan and learning more about her while waiting for our escape room experience to begin, we learned that she lives in New York City where she works wardrobe on Broadway shows.  This, of course, was very exciting because of Kathi's background in theater and the fact that she is an Equity member.  Megan also shares our love and travel and has the same goal that we do of visiting all 50 states.  No wonder we like her so much!  In fact we enjoyed her company so much that we invited her to join us in tomorrow's excursion to the Ladew Topiary Gardens in Maryland, and she said yes!

We parted ways with plans to meet tomorrow for our trip to Maryland and we made our way back to our temporary home.  There, we had leftovers of pork chops, couscous and asparagus, did some typing and tossed the states.  Once again, both states landed face down so we are still in suspense over next year's destination.   Then lights out to rest up for tomorrow's adventure.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Girls Weekend 2022. Sunday, October 16; Winterthur Estate and Marian Coffin Gardens

Sunday, October 16, 2022

(written by Kathi)

Warning: this is a long one, so grab a cup of coffee or something. The other day I told Lori I was going to work on not writing so extensively for the GW journal. Big fail.

We were up and about a little earlier today, about 7:30, closer to our usual GW rising time. For breakfast we enjoyed yogurt and the delicious farmers market granola. This morning Lori and I were determined to leave the house earlier, so we were efficient about our morning routines. We had our lunches packed and were ready to leave in time to arrive at our chosen destination before noon.

Today we explored another du Pont family home. Let me give you a bit of background first. Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739 – 1817) was a French-American writer, economist, publisher, and government official who emigrated with his two sons to the U.S. during the French Revolution. One of those sons, Éleuthère Irénée du Pont (a.k.a. E. I.) founded a company that eventually became one of the America’s most successful and wealthiest business dynasties of the 19th and 20th centuries. Whenever we write about visiting a du Pont estate, we will be referring to someone in E. I.’s line of succession. E. I. was a chemist with an expertise in making gunpowder. The family came to the U.S. with supplies of gunpowder that eventually ran out. When E.I. realized how much poorer quality the gunpowder was here in comparison to that made in France, he launched his company and subsequently made a fortune manufacturing gunpowder and later glass, paint, textiles, chemicals . . . the list goes on. Each of the massive du Pont family homes we have visited here in Wilmington have been built and owned by members of E. I.’s progeny.

E. I. and his wife Sophie had seven children—three sons and four daughters. One of them, Henry (a.k.a. Big Red, 1812 - 1889) was the first president of the gunpowder business. Big Red, who with his wife Louisa had eight children, was succeeded as company president by his son (E. I.’s grandson) Henry Algernon (1838 – 1926). Meanwhile, some of E. I.’s other heirs had sold off hundreds of acres of the original ginormous parcel of the family’s land to a business partner, Jacques Bidermann (1790 – 1865), who happened to be married to one of Big Red’s sisters, Angelina. Jacques was from Winterthur, Switzerland. He and Angelina used their newly acquired family land to build a huge house on a massive estate, and in honor of Jacques’ birthplace, named it Winterthur (the “h” is silent, by the way).

Jacques and Angelina (du Pont) had a son, James, who inherited Winterthur upon his father’s death. James apparently did not want the responsibility, and sold Winterthur to his uncle (his mother’s brother), Henry Algernon, son of . . . are you following along? Big Red. So, after Big Red dies in 1889, Henry Algernon owns all of Winterthur, AND all of Hagley, the property housing the gunpowder works and adjoining estate. He and his wife, Pauline, used Winterthur as a country home, converted the house to a French-style manor house, and added a fourth floor and yet another 900 acres to the property.

Henry Algernon and Pauline had planned for a huge family and expanded their home and estate so that they would have plenty of room; however, in the end they had only two children who survived childhood: Louise du Pont Crowningshield (1877 – 1958) and Henry Francis (1880 – 1969). Pauline died in 1902, and Henry Algernon (who served in congress after the death of his wife) died in 1926. Henry Algernon left Hagley, which Lori and I explored on Day 2, to his daughter, and Winterthur to his son, who had been managing the estate since the death of his mother.

We arrived at Winterthur just before noon and bought our tickets. The buying of tickets is newsworthy because both Lori and I are now old enough to qualify for the rate for seniors at most museums! You would have thought we had won the lottery; we were so excited to pay the reduced rate. At any rate, after we bought our SENIOR RATE tickets, we boarded the garden tram, which would eventually deliver us to the amazing home of Henry Francis du Pont.

The garden tram was open-sided and took a sinuous route from the visitor’s center to the main house through the 60 acres of naturalistic gardens planned and planted by Henry Francis du Pont with help from a female phenom gardener names Marian Coffin. The place is stunningly beautiful, even with very few flowers in bloom. Lori and I agreed that we would have called the rolling hills, forested areas, and meadows landscaping rather than gardens, but that is mostly attributed to the time of year and our rigid idea of what “gardens” are. Under the soil lurked 5 million bulbs that start sprouting every spring, carpet the fields and borders with color. There were still tons of hostas, hardy begonias, aster, and other blooms visible, but it all had an “organized wildness” vibe that tricked one into ignoring that decades of work had gone into the planning. Henry Francis, like so many other members of his family, was a naturalist who loved the outdoors. Our tram driver/guide seemed to know the name of every tree, bush, and ground carpet we passed, and he was delightful to listen to.

The Winterthur Mansion

Henry Francis established his enormous mansion as a public museum in 1951, and he moved into a smaller building on the grounds. The museum has now grown to hold galleries, lecture halls, and a library. Our tram delivered us first to the galleries housing two floors of furniture and artifacts not only from the big house, but also collected by the museum curators. I spent a lot of time in the first room of the galleries, which had clearly been fully redone since the pandemic. I know this not only because I asked the docent on duty, but because any Black communication scholar worth her salt would recognize the language on the walls, signs, and exhibits in this room to be acknowledgement of white privilege rarely seen lately, and certainly not before the summer of 2020. I was simultaneously amazed and appreciative of signs that began with questions such as, “Who should be involved in interpreting the themes of privilege and inequality portrayed by an object like this one?” This place has a fan for life.

After visiting the galleries, we took a break to enjoy the sandwiches we had packed, then presented ourselves at the mansion. Our house tour began at 2:00 pm from the conservatory, which is a huge and beautiful completely glass structure on one end of the house.  Henry Algernon and Pauline had expanded the home to 50 rooms, but son Henry Francis and his American furniture habit/obsession/addiction apparently needed way more room than that. In 1931 renovations were completed on the final expansion of Winterthur. Henry Francis added ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE ROOMS AND FOUR MORE FLOORS, increasing the total number of rooms to 175 (!!). To his credit, he and his architects did an amazing job of hiding the fact that the house was now as big as a small city. Rather then going up higher, he added floors underneath the four existing ones. The house was set into a hill, so Henry Francis moved down the hill, adding as he went, and not stopping until there were four additional floors. Oh, yeah, and an attic, although I’m not sure which Henry added the attic. Winterthur has been called the "largest and richest museum of American furniture and decorative arts in the world."

Because of this stair-stepping architecture, the “ground floor” through which we entered is in actuality now the fifth floor of the house, topping the four that had been added below. The tour encompassed this fifth floor and part of the fourth floor. Henry Francis fell in love with American furniture during the time he was managing Winterthur for his father. Now that he owned the home outright, he filled each of this seemingly endless supply of rooms with traditional and antique American furniture pieces. LOTS of them. The rooms are kept exactly as they were when Henry Francis died, and although there is room to walk through them, you don’t want to swing your arms too heartily or some precious antique will go flying. One of the docents informed us that there are over 90,000 separate, catalogued items in this house, and 19,000 of them are pieces of china. Having just moved seven months ago, and still feeling somewhat traumatized by the experience, the thought of actually owning that much stuff takes the air out of my lungs.

After exiting the house at the end of the tour (on a lower floor and different side than where we entered) we walked through some of  the grounds, including the reflection pool (formerly a full cement swimming pool) and the enchanted forest Henry Francis created in one of his gardens for all the workers’ children living on the estate. There was also a lovely, shaded, secluded area with a couple of koi ponds under a cool canopy of trees. We could have stayed in that space all day, relaxing with a book. On one of the previous days of this trip, Lori and I had talked about wanting to see a fox, and the tram driver had told us the place was full of them. When we walked into the koi pond area there were two women standing there, who told us they had just seen a fox standing right there on the steps, literally 30 seconds before. We missed him. When we left the water area and were headed back to where our car was parked, a couple was walking toward us. They said they had just seen a fox and asked if we had seen him! Of course, we had to answer no. Apparently, fox is the new moose, the other animal who successfully evaded us for 20 years.

Marian Coffin gardens

Lori and I walked back to our car, passing the now closed visitor’s center and outbuildings, and drove out of the parking lot at about 5:15. We decided we could squeeze in one more thing we wanted to see, so we headed to Marian Coffin Garden. These gardens were designed by the same woman who had helped Henry Francis design some of the Winterthur gardens, and Lori came across them in her research. They are attached to another large mansion in Wilmington which, unsurprisingly, also has a du Pont connection (purchased in 1909 by Isabella Mathieu du Pont; 1882 – 1946, great-granddaughter of E. I. and 3rd cousin to Henry Francis and Louise). The mansion is abandoned and literally falling apart, but a Delaware state organization collects funds to help preserve the garden. This place is not nearly as large as the other behemoths we have visited here, and seems really tucked away, but apparently it is well known as a spot for photos. There were four separate professional photographers taking photos of an engaged couple, a 5-year old birthday girl, a young couple with a new baby, and what was likely a young violinist taking senior pictures. We explored as much as we could while avoiding these groups, then left.
the garage belonging to the mansion on the property

When we got home neither of us was really hungry, so we just snacked throughout the evening while journaling and watching TV. We started a new show because we were sick of watching Niecy Nash’s boobs flop all over the place. This show is called The Good Cop and stars Tony Danza and Josh Groban (yes, THAT Josh Groban, the singer). The show is a comedic drama and is very good; however, Lori was asleep on the couch by 8:15, halfway through the second episode. She rallied to semi-watch one more episode, than gave up and went to bed at about 10:30. I wanted to journal a bit and take care of a couple of things for work that would make my life easier when I get back. I finally turned in around 12:30 am and slept like a rock.

Before Lori went to bed we tossed the states, but both final options landed bottoms up and therefore lived to face another day.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Girls Weekend 25. Saturday, Oct 15, 2022.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

I have to add here a tribute to my Mom, Beverly Crawford, who passed away this year on July 15th.  She LOVED reading about our adventures on our Girls Weekend trips and would hound me almost daily to get our daily journaling posted.  I miss that.  I miss my Mom. I promise to continue journaling while on these trips, not only to document our adventures but in memory of Mom.  Love you forever.
Today is the day we are making our trek into New Jersey.  Lori did her research to find something unique to do in New Jersey that wasn't too terribly far away from Wilmington and found Batsto Village, a nationally recognized historic site located in the Wharton State Forest in Southern New Jersey. Batsto Village is the site of a former bog iron and glass-making industrial center (1766-1867). A Mr. Charles Read built the Batsto Iron Works near the mouth of the Batsto River.  Originally the Iron works produced household items like cooking pots and kettles. During the Revolutionary War, they produced supplies for the Continental Army (munitions, camp kettles, iron fastenings & fittings for wagons and ships).  After a time iron production moved to Philadelphia and Batsto became a glass-making community.  Between 1784 and 1876 many of the village's buildings and residences for those who worked at the industrial center were built and a post office was established there in 1852.  In 1876, Batsto was purchased by Joseph Wharton, a Philadelphia industrialist, who transformed it to a gentleman's farm. He added to the mansion that was built by a previous owner and added many buildings to the site.  Today, there are 33 historic buildings and structures still standing on the site, including the mansion, many of which are open to browsing. There is a grist mill, a sawmill, a general store, piggery, workers homes, blacksmith shop and a post office.

We had decided the day before to leave by 11:30 since it is at least an hour's drive to Batsto from Wilmington and we wanted to be able to enjoy as much of the site as we could.  We got a relatively late start on Friday and were unable to fully explore the Hagley Museum and wanted to allow ourselves more time at Batsto Village.  After making turkey and cheese sandwiches to take with us for lunch we left a little bit later than our goal and ran into some traffic along the way, but arrived in the village around 1:30. We first stepped inside the Visitor's Center to gather some information and buy tickets for the 3:00 o'clock tour of mansion.  The Visitor's Center includes a small museum, but the day was too beautiful to spend much time indoors, so we took in the 10 minute video that described the history of the site, while we ate our sandwiches, then headed out to explore the village.  

Lori at the corn crib

inside the gristmill

Kathi outside the door to the horse barn

Inside the grist mill

We spent 20 minutes or so at the blacksmith shop where there was actually a blacksmith at work! We asked him where the term "pig iron" came from and, while the following are not his exact words but information found on the internet, his description was essentially the same. "The term “pig iron” dates back to the time when hot metal was cast into ingots before being charged to the steel plant. The moulds were laid out in sand beds such that they could be fed from a common runner. The group of moulds resembled a litter of sucking pigs, the ingots being called “pigs” and the runner the “sow.”"  He also told us how he judges the temperature of the fire by the color of the flames, with a red flame indicating a temperature of around 700 degrees and a white flame indicating a temperature of around 4000 degrees.
The corn crib

It was time for our tour of the mansion. We met with other folks and our tour guide (a charming, knowledgeable young man who used "umm" WAY too much in his storytelling) to begin our tour. Our group included a fairly large gaggle of boisterous teenagers who were enthusiastic participants in the tour.  Some of the glass in the windows of the home was the original glass which appears a bit wavy due to the production process and one of teens asked why the glass looked "pixelated".  A sign of the times. 

Batsto mansion is in the background

Photography is not allowed inside the mansion, so, unfortunately, I have no photos from inside the home.

After the tour we walked around the site a bit more, peeking into some of the worker homes, one of which had an herb garden.

Row of worker homes

The site also includes Batsto Lake where the families who lived there would swim and sail.

We made the hour and half drive back to Wilmington with a stop at the grocery store to pick up a few items, then went back to our home away from home, where Kathi prepared a delicious meal with the pork chops , asparagus and couscous we bought at Booths Corner Farmers Market the night before, which we enjoyed while watching a couple of episodes of "The Rookie: Feds". We both agree that the wardrobe choices for the lead character are distracting, sexist, unprofessional and disturbing and make taking her character as an FBI agent very hard to believe.

We tossed the states, leaving us with North Dakota and South Carolina in the running for next year!!

Saturday, October 15, 2022

GW 25 Daily Journal. Friday October 14, 2022

Friday, October 14, 2022


Our first morning is always slow going. As 60-somethings, we savor these quiet, stress-free mornings of doing only what we want to do. We got up rather late for us, around 8:30 and took our assigned seats in the comfy living room (we always tend to choose “our” spots in our living quarters every year.) Lori launched a deep dive into what there was to do in and around Wilmington.


This is a banner year – not only is it our 25th anniversary, it is also our first, last, and only trip during which we plan to cover three states. Because of our strict rules about what constitutes being able to check a state off of our list, we usually do only one state at a time. Seven times we have explored two states, but to do that we either must find a border town from which we can easily explore neighboring states, or we have to pick up and move in the middle of our trip. We REALLY hate moving, and most times a good border town is hard to find. This year we have a rare opportunity because of these interconnecting eastern states. That, combined with the fact that if we don’t pay attention we will be 80 years old trying to navigate the Colorado Rockies or something, has made us take advantage of this one-time opportunity. Wilmington, Delaware is across the river from New Jersey to the east, and a stone’s throw from Maryland to the west. All three states were still on the list, so here we are.


Our itinerary will take careful planning. Lori chose our day trips to New Jersey and Maryland in advance, but we had not yet paid much attention to our home base of Delaware. So this morning we mapped out our week . . . mostly because I simply cannot function well without a list. This took some time, and it was well after noon before we got moving, showered, and dressed. Lori made sandwiches and we took our lunch with us to eat in the car on the way to our first excursion: The Hagley Museum and Library right here in Wilmington.


The weather was absolutely glorious—a sunny fall day with temps reaching 68 degrees. By the time we arrived it was 1:55 pm, and we were greeted by a sign informing us that the museum store was closing early, at 2 pm, because of an event. So we began our exploration by running into the gift shop before it closed. We held them up from closing for about 20 minutes, then made our way to the visitor’s center.


OK, here’s where I’ll tell you what we THOUGHT we were going to see. The visitor’s center is also a museum of working models of machines submitted for patents before 1880. Between the years 1790 and 1880 the U.S. Patent Office required both documentation and a three-dimensional working model to demonstrate each new invention submitted for a patent. The models helped to explain proposed innovations and compare them against similar inventions. The Patent Office collected the submitted models during this period and exhibited them to large public audiences in the grand galleries of Washington D.C.’s Patent Office Building. As the mechanical widgets, thingamabobs, and whatsits started to collect, however, they realized there was not nearly enough space to store them, so they decided that the detailed drawings were enough.


This place is in possession of 5,000 of these mockups and has a large portion of them on display. This idea tickled our nerdy little hearts and we thought we could spend an entertaining . . . oh, I don’t know . . . maybe 90 minutes (?) looking at all the fun inventions. In reality, the amazing and misleadingly named estate “Hagley Museum and Library” is a massive, sprawling 235 acre estate built and landscaped by the du Pont family (yes, those du Ponts, as in chemicals and cars) that includes not only the building housing the model collection (called the Nation of Inventors), but also the Eleutherian Mills Residence, the E. I. du Pont Garden, the Hagley Powder Yard, and the Eleutherian Mills area. “Hagley” was the name already in place when the DuPonts purchased the land in the early 1800s.

Dupont Phaeton


The family began a highly profitable black gunpower business on the shores of the Brandywine River that runs through the property and built a gorgeous Georgian-style mansion high on the banks overlooking the mills. The mansion looks much as it was when the last family member lived there. It is filled with furnishings and collections of American folk art alongside treasured family pieces and is open for tours, so of course we bought tickets to see it. In front of the house are two acres of charming gardens that have been restored to their original site following a plan drawn by E. I. du Pont in 1804.


Lori and I had just enough time to race through the patent models display, jump on the shuttle to get to the mansion, walk the gardens, and tour the house and the powder mills business office. On the way back to get the shuttle we quickly went in the outer barn to see the gorgeously maintained original farm machinery, and three classic du Pont automobiles before the entire place closed down at 5:00 and we had to leave. We did NOT get enough time here! The estate is fascinating, and we were unprepared. We were unable to see the Hagley Powder Yard or much of the Eleutherian Mills area. There are several historic structures we were unable to visit that held the powder manufacturing stuff, and there are demonstrations too! We were only able to see these by riding by them in the shuttle. We are hoping to find time to get back here and explore the areas we had to miss, and dangit, we didn’t even get to fully enjoy all the gadgets!


The Mansion

Our du Pont mansion tour guide, Cheryl, who had heard me talking about strawberry rhubarb pie as we passed through the rhubarb patch in the gardens, suggested that we go to Booth’s Corner Farmers Market. She said it was an amazing place we would love to see, and that they had strawberry rhubarb pie there. Lori and I rarely ignore recommendations from locals, and the market was open until 8:00pm, so we decided to go see what Cheryl was raving about. Booth’s Corner Farmers Market is in Garnet Valley, PA. We laughed because we felt like, especially after having gotten lost on the way to our Airbnb, we had already spent too much time in Pennsylvania, a state that was not even one of the three designated for this trip!


Holy moly, this place was fabulous! Not only were there stands of fresh meats, cheeses, veggies, fruits, breads, nut butters, candies, and pastries, there were also surprising and convenient services, such as shoe repair, a notary (!!?), and watch repair. The market had clothing booths and booths with hats, scarves, jewelry, gifts. . . the place was awesome. Lori and I purchased some marinated pork chops and chicken breasts, fresh asparagus, couscous from a great little dry goods shop, yogurt, granola, milk, and of course, a fresh-from-the-oven strawberry rhubarb pie! After we found a great little taco stand and ordered fresh-made tacos to go, we left this haven of wonder and arrived home in less than 15 minutes.


At our cozy Airbnb, we changed into jammies and established ourselves on the couch to eat tacos and watch TV. We chose a new show called Alaska Daily starring Hilary Swank and were sad that there are so far only two episodes. We loved the show and are eagerly awaiting more. However it was now time for the first tossing of the states! In Lori’s ziplock bag of remaining states, there are only 15 options remaining, and Lori and I took a moment to reflect on how we have dedicated ourselves to Girls Weekend over the years, and now have less than a third of the 50 states and D.C. left to visit for GW. Lori hurled the puzzle pieces into the air, and more than half landed face up! Living to face another day are: Texas, Nevada, Colorado, Georgia, Alaska, Arizona, North Dakota, South Carolina. Lori is pulling for Arizona, and I would like to go to N Dakota because it is the only state in which I have never set foot. We turned in around 11:30 to rest up for New Jersey day tomorrow.

States remaining in the running after the toss