A tip, dear friends.
When you go camping, check the weather report.
A caveat to that tip: if you fail to check the weather report, go camping in Confluence, Pennsylvania. We got there to go white water rafting on the Youghegheney River, something that unfortunately did not work out this time. What we ended up finding, however, was a rather adorable town with very very nice people. People who, for example, lent us a wheelbarrow to move our gear to our campsite… through the creek.
Actually Robin, owner of the bed and breakfast near the campsite, was on CRUTCHES due to a KAYAKING INJURY she sustained going over a TEN FOOT WATERFALL, but nonetheless guided us through that CREEK on STEPPING STONES. On CRUTCHES. In the RAIN.
So we set up camp. In the rain. Hauled several wheelbarrowsful of supplies. In the rain. Pitched our tent. In the rain.
Steve went and got firewood while I moodily sat in the tent and ate Gas Station Lunch (surprisingly good popcorn and mixed nuts).
And then we hung out in our tent. In the rain.
Which was fun! It had its charms! There are worse things than hanging out with a cute boy listening to rain fall outside. We played games. We ate sushi (yes, Steve brought sushi in a cooler for camping. He is great).
We took a nice nap (well I almost napped, which I consider a personal triumph. I am not a sleeper.) And then… Steve stuck his foot back into… a puddle.
And we did a little bit of an inventory and went “Hmm, it appears that our tent has water pouring into it in a variety of places rather than a self contained leak. And it is only 3 in the afternoon and we are supposed to spend the night here. This may not work.”
So we packed up all our camping gear and tent. In the rain.
And then, wouldn’t you know it, the sun came out over the beautiful river.
So we went on a trek!
Well, after putting on dry clothes (I romped around Pennsylvania in my Americorps fleece, which was warm, dry, and extremely dirty; and my boyfriend’s shorts, which fit me alarmingly well).
The deluge of water (which was still on and off) meant fun sights to see as we strolled along the train tracks into town, like this tunnel-type thing. Can you spot the Steve?
We got into the “town”. By “town” I mean on one block we passed all the essentials: grocery store, district court, funeral home, laundromat. We got some strange looks, one because we didn’t live there and I kind of feel like Confluence, PA is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone, and two because we were strolling in the rain wearing slightly ridiculous clothes. But anyway the town immediately endeared itself to us by having a WINE SHOP. YAAAAAAAAAAAAY!
The shop was attached to a B and B and they had wines from a local vineyard, Glades Pike Winery.
It was so so so lovely to relax and unwind (indoors!) and also to taste some super delicious, locally produced wine.
They had quite a selection, with lots of sweet and fruit-infused wines.
My favorite is pictured above: Black & Blue. An absolutely delectable blend of blackberry and blueberry. Holy delicious!
We returned to our campsite to pick up our car and gear and evaluate our options. While there, we bonded with Dan, Robin’s husband and the other B+B owner. Wow he was a cool guy. He immediately made fun of Steve’s Obama shirt (and then in the same sentence talked about how much he hated Sarah Palin “not cause she’s a woman though!”). We chatted about the area and all the extreme sports and stuff that seem to go on there.
Then Dan’s… friend showed up. Well, basically an informally adopted son who seems to show up in the area, go kayaking, and sleep in his car. He was… hilarious. Every hairy, tattooed, amusingly crazy-eyed badass adventurer surfer cliche ran true with him… except with a kayak instead of a board.
This is what I love about visiting new places, especially ones a little more rural and off the beaten track: there are so many enjoyable, kind, slightly off-kilter people to meet!
That being said, we had nowhere to sleep. We had to leave. But we figured we’d at least get a good meal out of Confluence.
Dan’s dinner recommendation led us to the Lucky Dog Cafe (if you click on the link the website is hilarious, because it seems to actually mainly be a river sports base camp… that happens to serve really delicious food). It earned immediate points with both of us by having Christmas lights.
The inside was AWESOMELY funky.
This picture captures the swivel chairs (awesome), flowers and hot sauce at every table (awesome), and dog-shaped pepper grinders (!!). Oh and my poor boyfriend.
This place really was an extreme athlete hangout, with autographs of various awesome people everywhere.
The people inside the cafe were pretty great too: again, it’s so amusing being in a town where clearly everyone knows everyone. We all bemoaned together- and by “we all” I mean Steve and everyone else but definitely not me- the fact that they were out of PBR. And then a pregnant woman yelled “I HADDA QUIT DRINKING!” and throughout the meal we (over)heard all the (dramatic!) details of her pregnancy (you are apparently NOT supposed to go surfing).
Dan gave a special shoutout to the pizza, so Steve immediately ordered a Tomato and Garlic: with garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, roma tomatoes, and balsamic reduction (!). Our waitress was VERY supportive of that order, and rightly so, as we learned when this arrived.
So…. this pizza had the best crust I have ever tasted. THE BEST CRUST. I HAVE EVER TASTED.
How, right?! It is just some random roadside cafe in Pennsylvania where kayakers eat!
But again… the. best. crust. I. have. ever. tasted.
Awesome delicious crispy outside char, doughy airy fluffiness within. PERFECTION.
Then atop there were tomatoes, basil, and balsamic reduction PERFECTION.
Soooooooooo when Steve insisted I help him eat it, I did what he started calling “Ileana-style”. Outer crust, tomato-basil-balsamic goodness. Cheesiness left for Steve.
Oh, did I mention that in addition to a pizza, Steve also ordered a burger?
I basically made him after I went “Ooh, grass fed!”. He got very very excited. It must be very difficult being an environmentally conscientious eater but still… a Midwestern boy.
Because he is very clever, he topped it with the accompanying potato chips.
I was jonesing for some veggies and ordered the sauteed veggie wrap.
With the same potato chips… and a pickle! I love love love pickles. After I said that repeatedly, Steve gave me his pickle too. Gosh I’m so lucky.
So the “wrap” was actually a flour tortilla… a massive, slightly bland flour tortilla (and I really don’t like any flour tortillas unless they’re like… homemade on a tortilla press in a Mexican restaurant).
So I evicted my veggies and ate them as a salad.
Lettuce, tomater, carrots, shrooms, artichoke hearts (!). Fresh mozzarella (!).
Definitely didn’t miss the wrap. Left more room in my belly for PIZZA CRUST! And additional carb-age, in the form of these delicious home-fried potato chips. The ones with the potato skins left on were particularly delicious.
In a visit to their bathroom, I admired the pervasive eco friendliness.
And then we hit the road.
Til next time, Confluence.
The next day, we decided we had been robbed of being particularly active the day before, and had spent 7 hours in a car (Steve, unbelievably great guy that he is, drove the whole time, and dealt with horrible rain and fog that made it, on multiple occasions, impossible to see the road more than five feet ahead of us).
So the point was, we wanted to get out and move.
After fueling up, we set out from Steve’s apartment to DC. By walking (!). He lives in South Arlington, locals. It’s a trek (final mileage will be revealed in dramatic fashion in a bit).
Strolly strolly strolly… hit up the W+OD trail, a lovely walk that goes through much of Northern Virginia. Strolly strolly… Bluemont Junction trail to Ballston. Strolly strolly… walk down Wilson Boulevard, the main street of North Arlington, passing through Clarendon (hipsters at every turn).
Saw the British imports shop and had to stop so I could buy Steve my great love, the Crunchie bar (well okay I had a bite too)
Dear Cadbury: how do you make that airy nougaty awesomeness happen?!
Strolly strolly… got through Arlington (I made a brief, necessary stop to buy iced coffee. Oh, and also stopped to use the bathroom four times. Steve is very very impressed by my constant need to do this), reached Rosslyn, the last spot in Virginia. Crossed the Key Bridge into DC.
Then we meandered through Georgetown, stopping briefly at Second Time Around, the best consignment shop in the world, where I bought a skirt for $10. I then put on said skirt, since I was wearing pretty disgusting sweatpants, the only clothes I had left at that point.
By this time we’d been walking for, oh, three and a half hours and were sort of starting to think about food. I suggested Dupont!
So strolly strolly… feeling a little dazed. A little hypoglycemic.
Once we got to Dupont, we got sort of obsessed with eating outside. Like… all the cute places we had passed in Arlington and Georgetown but hadn’t stopped at! So we kind of wandered around even more searching for that (by this point, incidentally, I was hangry).
We ended up doubling back to a place on P we had already passed, but first stopped into the famous Julia’s Empanadas, where we split a much needed pick-me-up in the form of a spinach empanada. Actually reminded me quite a bit of the Lebanese spinach pies they sell at church in terms of the filling. But oh man the crust. That was good crust.
And at laaaaaaaaaaast we got to sit dooooooooooooown.
Our final destination was Scion.
Great things about brunch at Scion:
1. You get to sit outside, catching lovely breezes and watching passersby.
2. Fresh fruit buffet!
Well actually we arrived at brunch at 3:30. The very very end of their brunch. Still, they very considerately let us order (though we had to do it right away) and brought us out plates of the last of their brunch.
3. Fresh fruit buffet includes papaya.
I love papaya. Steve does not. More for me, baby!
We both sprung for another fun feature of brunch at scion,
4. Make your own omelet or scramble. Protein, three veggies, a cheese, and a side.
I ordered a scramble with spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, feta, and “veggie patty” (which they said tasted like a crumbled veggie burger), and was presented with this.
Which left me confused since I hadn’t ordered the breakfast potatoes, vaguely sad because there were no tomatoes, and seriously distressed because that crumbly brown stuff tasted like MEAT (which I am not eating during Lent).
I never send back food. Being a waiter or waitress is a horribly difficult job, and I don’t want to make it any harder. Plus, if you mess with people they will spit in your food. That being said, another great thing about Scion is
5. Attentive service
Steve pretended to go to the bathroom and ended up asking our waitress about the veggie patty. She came back and made inquiries in the kitchen, where they told her that it was indeed vegetarian, just a strikingly similar substitute to meat. But she noticed they hadn’t included the tomatoes, so she asked them to scramble those in.
Anyway, while this was all getting worked out, I was appreciating the fact that
6. As a side option with your brunch, you can order toast, potatoes, or a pastry!
Guess what I, Starvin’ Marvin, ordered?!
Berries, apple, sweet buttery crust. Pie. This was PIE.
Steve, meanwhile, was eating his omelet, which he had chosen to get with LOBSTER.
When he split this omelet in half, what he really wanted was for me to start eating it while I waited for the return of my scramble.
But I am stubborn (well, so is he), so I photographed its interior and told him I was fiiiiiiiine and he should just eaaaaaaaaat his own food before it got cold.
Anywho, my scramble returned, WITH tomato, assuredly vegetarian.
Snarfed that baby.
Then they had
7. The best mints in the world.
Embarrassed how many I took home. Well, and happy. Very happy!
We then had an enjoyable digesting interlude in Rose Park, where we sunbathed and did a crossword.
Then went through Georgetown, where Steve impressed college dudes with his acrobatics crossing over the canal by gripping on a seriously suspect piece of metal.
In that last shot he is abandoning ship midstream. But hefting himself up very impressively!
There was a round of applause by spectators.
Anyway, we hit the road yet again and walked baaaaaaaaaack to south Arlington. Highlights included passing a fire station (!) where there were firefighters (!) sitting outside. Steve considerably tightened his grip on my hand, perhaps being slightly aware of a slight, harmless fondness I have for that heroic profession. So I went “Hey, guys! How are you doing tonight!” and smirked at Steve.
So we went down Wilson… through Ballston… back to the one trail… then the other trail… I was kind of exhausted, and we were both kind of having bodily breakdowns (Steve confessed once we got home that he’d had a blister on his foot the ENTIRE TIME). Yet it was wonderful, being with this person I love, watching the moon come out, listening to the end-of-the-day bird noises, having deep conversations about everything.
We got back to his apartment, flung off our shoes, and went to mapmyfitness.com.
Total distance traveled?
18 FREAKING MILES.
No wonder we were tired. And, um, HUNGRY!
And this is where it got intense… I remembered that we had all the fixings for Smores from our abortive camping trip.
And I’d had the foresight to put sweet potatoes in the oven… so we had those… and it was hot.
And Steve had a beautifully ripe banana…
And that’s how we ate Smores for dinner.
One tray coming out…
The Graham cracker-chocolate-marshmallow-banana-peanut butter combo.
And, be still my beating heart, graham cracker-chocolate-marshmallow-banana-peanut butter-sweet potato. Wowsa.
I warned Steve in advance what the title of this post would be. But man if we are crazy, I don’t wanna be sane.