Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Spicy Spaghetti

Now that I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable in my new Bellevue apartment with my husband, I'm trying to cook occasionally. My husband is actually quite a good cook and took it upon himself to prepare meals for our first few weeks together. I appreciated it, since upon arriving in Bellevue I was frustrated and disinterested and not really up to household duties.

But now I'm starting to share the workload. I just realized that I need to get a head start on dinner if I want to have a hope of cooking anything before he gets to working in the kitchen when he gets home. So tonight when he told me he'd be home around 8:30pm I was prepared. Since he had plenty of spaghetti noodles and a few jars of tomato sauce, whipping up dinner was relatively easy. But since I didn't have any meat to put in the sauce (hadn't had any picked up from the halal meat shop yet) I wanted to make it a little more interesting than just tomatoes (though I did add some extra tomatoes.) So I decided to add some oregano (I normally do), and some garlic powder (why not?) and some crushed red pepper (hey, husband likes spices!) and even some ground red pepper as well.

I let it simmer on the stove while I went to the masjid to pray. One nice thing about this apartment is its proximity to the masjid--a 5-10 minute walk. So I prepared myself and made wudu, and left the house about 6:50. But as I approached the masjid, I realized that the salah was not at 7pm, like I had mistakenly thought, but actually at 7:30.

Now, I haven't been able to find a table of iqamah times listed for this masjid, which is why I keep getting confused. I think it's something like fajr at 6:45am, dhuhr at 12:30, asr at 3pm, maghrib at 4:30, and isha at 7:30. But for some reason I just can't keep it straight. So I arrived at the masjid, prayed isha by myself and then left. While I didn't mind leaving the stove on for 30 minutes or so, leaving it on for an hour made me nervous. I do like being able to walk to the masjid, though. And since it hasn't been raining lately, it's been especially easy. Last Friday I walked to jumu'ah, happy to not have to worry about parking in an already cramped masjid parking lot. This way, someone else could utilize the space. Plus it's more environmentally friendly (they're all about that up here!) and healthier for me as well, since I get a bit of exercise.

Around 8pm I started boiling water for the pasta, and tossed it in after about 10 minutes. Unfortunately my husband was a little late (and I was very hungry) so I started without him but once he got home he was quick to eat everything left. And what made me most happy of all was that he really loved the spaghetti. First I had him put a lot more sauce on it than he was used to. So even though he had cooked spaghetti himself before, he assured me he liked mine better--though not because of the spices, just because it wasn't "dry."

A few days ago some sisters told me that it was satisfying to cook for one's husband but I was skeptical. I'm far from becoming some kind of foodie or gourmet chef but it's nice to have my own home, and someone who likes my cooking.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Welcome to Washington

On Tuesday, December 15th, 2009, I entered Washington state for the first time. And I've been here since then. It was actually very late, and dark, so I couldn't see much other than the road. Since my husband had been driving for most of that day along a very rainy Oregon coast and was too tired to keep going, but yet insisted on making it the rest of the way, I drove from the southern areas of the state along I-5 northwards until we got to Bellevue.

The only thing I could really notice about the state, which I'd noticed in Oregon as well (and maybe even in northern California) was the roads. First, the use of these round bumps in place of white paint to mark lane divisions. Easier to see in the rain and dark, even with glare from streetlights, and also a way to make you feel if you've crossed into another lane accidentally. And second, that Washington highway shields are a very funny shape. At first I thought it was a bush--and from far away it kind of looks that way--until I realized it was actually a silhouette of President Washington's profile! See how the little things amuse me! Of all the states we traveled through, this was definitely the most interesting. Most states will use circles, diamonds, squares, or even the shape of the state. But I've got to say that Washington takes the cake on this.

The first thing we did in on Wednesday after breakfast was to go pick out furniture for our new apartment. My husband had heard good reviews about Mor Furniture in Kent so that's where we went, and were pleased enough with the selection to buy a dining room table with chairs, a sofa and ottomans, and some mattresses. These items were delivered the same day. We also bought a recliner, however, but that item was back-ordered and hasn't yet come in.

Our next step was to purchase some essentials for the apartment--silverware, and cookware, for instance, but also bed linens and towels. But after a lot of time shopping at Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond, we were mostly set for the first day. I had to make many subsequent trips to both stores, plus a stop at a Wal-mart and a Pier 1 Imports, before becoming mostly satisfied with the apartment. I have some more things being shipped from home which should arrive next week, and today we finally ordered the tableware that I really wanted, so it should soon be on its way.

Since arriving we've been able to dine with a few different families in the area, and it's been nice to meet some other sisters. So far everyone I've met has a connection with Microsoft--usually that their husbands work there, and that's how we are connected. Microsoft seems to import its employees from all over the world, allowing for a tremendous amount of diversity in this area.

The last few days have also had unseasonably (I'm told) excellent weather, with plenty of sunshine (during the mere 8 hours that the sun is actually above the horizon), despite being more on the chilly side. One plus side to a short day, on the other hand, is that it's very easy to fast. This Sunday was Ashura--the 10th day of the first month of the Islamic calendar, a day Muslims are recommended to fast in order to remember Moses, and the liberation of the Jews from Egyptian slavery. It's recommended for Muslims to fast two days, either Ashura and the previous or following day. And with a fast lasting from 6am (the start time of fajr) until 4:30pm (maghrib), it's hard to complain. Although the summer is surely going to be a completely different story.

Although there are many things I miss about Raleigh (I'm sure to elaborate on these in subsequent posts) there are some things about Bellevue which just can't be beat, like the view of the mountains on a clear day, or a Starbucks in every nook and cranny. And it's time now to make it my home.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Journey North

Once we hit Bakersfield, CA, we were pretty much just heading north. Because of snow, we weren't planning to make any stops in Eastern California, so we just drove north. From Sacramento, we went north to Redding, CA, but from there we went further west again because I wanted to see the coast. There's a scenic route up the CA, OR, and WA coastlines, highway 101. But the job on Sunday was to get to the coast. Traveling up I-5 to Redding wasn't a problem at all, but going westward meant driving through Shasta-Trinity National Forest. In the middle of the day, with clear skies and beautiful weather, it didn't seem that doing so would be a problem. But this "scenic drive" is not for the faint-hearted.

It twists, and it winds. And it is absolutely gorgeous--smoky mountains, giant fir trees, gentle rivers. (I take it those rivers aren't always gentle, given the number of rafting houses we passed.) There are tons of RV parks but not really any towns on your route once you pass Weaverville. It was really a beautiful drive--but not for the driver. And I'd recommend anyone who gets carsick to avoid it. But those obstacles aside, it is pretty beautiful.

Unfortunately, in Weaverville some locals told me that they were expecting snow that night, so husband and I wanted to get through as soon as we could. And we were out by the time it was dark--although every time we passed a snow plow we got kind of nervous. It wasn't a road to travel in snow. We stopped to pray in the forest, by a river. That was nice--another interesting place serving as a masjid. And by the time we were out of the forest we were almost at the coast. We decided to go north and stopped in a place called Trinidad, CA, for dinner.

We dinner ate at a local seafood house that was very nice, but our waitress suggested not staying the night in Trinidad and instead driving south to Arcata, which we did. In Arcata, we ate breakfast at a place called Toni's (finding an IHOP or the like in this area is pretty much out of the question, so we asked at the hotel for a breakfast place.) And honestly, the food was delicious. And the pancakes were huge. Seriously, huge. Being in the MM FitLife, our second habit to master is avoiding processed foods. I'd say pancakes are processed, so I wanted to have pancakes at my last opportunity. And it was worth it: they were really good.

Monday we drove north up the coast, and it rained. My husband especially loves the Pacific Ocean--and it is nice, but compared to what all we had seen I was slightly underwhelmed. Rainy and overcast conditions didn't make it easy to see much either. Along our route was Redwood National Park, so we stopped there. We even got out of the car this time and took a few side trails. The trees, in case you haven't been there, are huge. Some of the fallen trees you can take a picture beside, and as they're laying on the ground, they're still taller than you. It was pretty neat.

On the north side of the park was a little museum and shop (Trees of Mystery), with huge statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe (the blue ox.) We looked around, and the museum was particularly interesting. It was called the "End of the Trail Museum," and had a variety of different Native American displays and information.

This symbol is used to mean "End of the Trail." I learned that from a Navajo lady back at the Grand Canyon. She told me they use it for their children, their youth who end up leaving their culture behind, and so for them they are at the end of the trail.

It's sad to see what has happened to so many cultures, so I'm glad we stopped at this museum--it was interesting.

From there we went further north and made it into Oregon. We stopped at a vistor's center to pray shortly before they closed, and planned to drive a little further north Monday, and then head on to Portland the next day. So we stopped in a place called North Bend--actually we had a hard time finding anywhere to eat. It seemed to be a coastal town that was pretty much shut down in the off-season. For breakfast though we stopped at a place called the Pancake Mill, and had a really good breakfast (albeit, no pancakes, sadly.)

Tuesday took us the rest of the way up the Oregon coast--rainy, mostly, with a few scenic views, and some small towns along 101--and we went in to Portland for dinner. My husband wanted to eat at an Afghani place called Kabobi. So we stopped and ate, and then decided to keep going!

So that night, Tuesday night, we drove all the way to Bellevue. I drove most of the stretch between Oregon and Seattle so my husband could sleep--driving in rain really takes a lot out of you and he was exhausted. We then spent the night in a local hotel so we could get started with the apartment shopping on Wednesday.

So now I should be caught up, at least to the end of the honeymoon. So now I'm only one week or so behind. We actually do have pictures of all these things but haven't uploaded them yet, sorry.

Death Valley Rain

After visiting the Grand Canyon, we had one more night in Sedona, AZ before heading further north and west. We intended to leave Thursday morning and visit Hoover Dam along our way to Las Vegas, NV. We ended up leaving later than we'd have liked, however, in part due to my insistence on stopping at one more pottery house (Kacina House) before leaving town. I guess it was worth it, I bought a few more things there. We also stopped for sandwiches that we'd take as our lunch from a shop called Sedona Memories. Those sandwiches, however, won't be our best memories of Sedona. They were just too huge. We each had a few bites of ours and ended up throwing most of it away just because we couldn't eat it--and it wasn't all that good to begin with.

But with all our (my) delaying, it was getting dark by the time we reached Hoover Dam so we didn't really see much. But the drive towards it from the Arizona side is just beautiful. On the other hand, traffic there isn't any fun--though it should improve by the time the new bridge opens up. We drove over the dam and onwards towards Las Vegas, which wasn't far.

Friday for jumu'ah we went to the Omar Haikal Academy, which had been recommended to me by someone who used to live there. Afterwards we went back to Hoover Dam to see it properly, and were there nearly until dusk. From there we went back towards Vegas and continued on towards a small town called Pahrump, NV.

The plan for Saturday was to visit Death Valley National Park, but we wanted to stay somewhere closer to the park than Las Vegas, and we actually had a hard time finding a hotel. But we stayed at a fairly decent place in Pahrump, and for the first time on our trip took part in the complimentary breakfast. (No pork served this time.)

On Saturday we drove up to Death Valley, and through it. One of the first places I was able to take off that new winter coat I'd bought. It was chilly in Death Valley (after all, it was December) but not like the other places we'd been. While I definitely preferred the Grand Canyon, Death Valley was certainly an interesting place to see. The mountains jut out of the landscape at crazy angles--you can see the lines of the different types of rocks, but it's all turned to an angle. And the colors were just shocking. And then there were sand dunes right in the middle--just weird, and alienesque. The colors and scale of the Grand Canyon, just the sheer immensity of it, keeps it at the top of my list.

On our way out of Death Valley we encountered some heavy fog, and even rain. But then we had a decision to make--after Death Valley, where to go? We had originally planned to travel north, towards Bishop, CA, but they were getting pretty heavy snow, so we took a turn south, went around towards Bakersfield, and then up north towards Sacramento. We actually stopped for dinner in Fresno, CA, but wanted to get as far north as we could, so made it 3 more hours to Sacramento, where we stopped for the night.

I've got to say, I saw some parts of California that day that I had never imagined could exist--the weirdest looking cultivated hills, for example, and driving for miles and miles in rainy deserts. It was strange. But thereafter everything was pretty much as expected. So Saturday night we stayed in Sacramento, CA, and Sunday went north from there. More to come...

The Grand Canyon Musalleen?

Sorry for not writing in so long--it took us almost a week to get north and after leaving Sedona we had some pretty long days and by nighttime I was too tired to write much. So let me begin now where I left off.

We did have to buy new coats, and that was a really good decision--we would have frozen at the grand canyon with what we had. It had been really cold when we visited Petrified Forest National Park, and that was difficult with the coats we had. But we didn't suffer too much when actually visiting the Grand Canyon since we were bundled up pretty good.

As we traveled further north on Wednesday morning, and into higher elevations, we encountered more and more snow. First it was pretty, when the roads weren't too bad. We were driving through Coconino National Forest, which looked really pretty with the fresh snow. Closer to the canyon, roads weren't in such good condition. We had checked with the visitor's center in Sedona before leaving town and were told that all roads were open except for 180, which we could easily avoid. And alhamdulillah we didn't have any road problems on the way.

We did stop at Sunset Crater but found the roads along the route to visit there to be very bad (they hadn't been cleared at all, so the only clear sections were where the sun had melted the roadways.) It would've been nearly impossible to go see the crater anyway, so we went back to 89, the road we were taking northward to the canyon.

Around the Little Colorado River Gorge, there were a few Native American ladies who had set up their stands to sell jewelery and pottery. The piece on the right (the black one, glazed outside and inside) is one that we purchased, for about $50. The lady we bought it from also explained the meanings of all the different symbols on the pottery. My tip for anyone traveling to the grand canyon area and wanting to by some native-made (or "indian") pottery, is to buy it from stands like this one, off the side of the road.
We got a much better price from her (and from everyone there) than at any other shops we visited. We also bought a bracelet at a nearby stand. We did buy a few more pieces of pottery, but I'm really glad we stopped there and bought that particular piece. You can find basically the same kinds of stuff in tourist shops, trading posts, and these road-side stands, and you can still get the cards explaining the etchings, or how the pot was made, but I really think I had the best experience at the road-side stand. (And conveniently, the best price.)

Inside Grand Canyon National Park, the roads between those two extremes. Sections of the road which were in shade were still covered in snow, so it was at times a scary drive. When we arrived, we found about 2 feet of snow on the ground. While much of the parking areas at the scenic viewpoints had been cleared, the walkways hadn't. So if you wanted to get close enough to take pictures, you had to brave the snow. I tried that once, while my husband waited in the car, and after crossing the pile of cleared snow from the parking lot, I fell face first into that 2+ feet of snow on the sidewalk, camera and everything.

Fortunately it dried/evaporated pretty quickly, and I didn't get soaked or have to deal with freezing cold water melting on me. We stayed at that viewpoint for a while, as I tried to take pictures and then we prayed there as well. The Grand Canyon is probably the nicest of places where we prayed--on a road trip like this one, many different places can become a masjid. We took tons of pictures of the snowy Grand Canyon, but from the distance it looks like only a dusting of snow--seriously, there were feet of snow at the highest elevations.

Walking around at Desert View, it was especially nice to have the new coats, as the wind was intense. Seriously, every woman walking around there was a hijabi--the cold was nearly intolerable without wrapping up your head as well. But the view truly was beautiful. It's still my favorite place that we visited.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Laundry Day and Airport Views

Yesterday husband and I had to do laundry together. After spending nearly a week on the road (and neither of us willing to carry more than a week's worth of clothes) it was time to get our clothes washed. And with nothing but rain and fog to see in the area (and roads too risky to try driving out of town), other than snuggling and watching Star Wars, laundry was pretty high on our priority list.

I actually thought it was cute. I'd never used a laundromat before, but it was kinda fun because it was something we did together.

Today we started with another gourmet breakfast--savory today, as yesterday's was sweet. There was snow on the ground but then the sun came out and most of it melted pretty quickly. That is, at this elevation. We were able to get some pictures of the red rocks with snow on some and not on others. Sedona is truly beautiful--even more so when it's not raining! Mostly we just stayed in town. We did a little bit of shopping and some sight-seeing (there a lots of scenic vistas here.) There is a church here that's built into a mountain which was neat to visit. Also, at the airport, which is on a mesa, we were able to look down on the entire town (photo above) and see many of the red rock formations from there very clearly.

Since Flagstaff supposedly had 26 inches of snow last night, and higher elevations will likely stay below freezing temperatures tomorrow, we bought new winter coats for our trip to the Grand Canyon tomorrow, inshaAllaah. If we can get there inshaaAllaah--roads clear and all--then we're sure to see a spectacular view.

The Plains Meet the Mountains

Driving I-40 through Oklahoma and Texas is not very exciting. There's a lot of sky, a lot of wind, an occasional windmill and lots of flat land that's really just not very interesting most of the time. The further we traveled west the less vegetation we would see, the less cultivation, the less animals (mostly we just saw cows and horses anyway) and the less people. It was interesting to see how vast this part of the country is--the part I've only seen in Westerns and cowboy movies. The sunsets in the plains were lovely--a colorful sky in every direction.

New Mexico was nicer--a more interesting landscape--but just as bitterly cold as Texas, unfortunately. Especially on the Eastern side were people very friendly and helpful. By the time we got to Arizona the landscape of New Mexico seemed boring in comparison. Arizona has been nothing short of amazing. We visited the world's largest tepee (which definitely had the best gift shop at the AZ-NM border) and Petrified Forest National Park. I'm actually so unhappy with our pictures from there because they don't even begin to capture the stunning beauty of the Painted Desert (the northern part of the park.) I'm really glad we were able to drive through the park (about 28 miles, and our 2nd national park on this trip so far.)

A national park annual pass costs $80--but now we have access to all the nation's national parks for a year. Great Smoky Mountains National Park actually didn't charge, but now we've also been to Petrified Forest, and plan to visit the Grand Canyon and Death Valley. With regular admission at $20/car, it will be worth the cost if we can make it to any other parks this year, and that we certainly intend inshaaAllaah.

In general I'm loving the desert. Despite the cold, biting winds (Petrified Forest was so cold we barely left the car--one reason perhaps the pictures aren't all they could be) the views are amazing, all the way around.

As the sun set we drove onwards towards Sedona, AZ, taking a tiny little winding road (Hwy 89A) down from an elevation of about 7000 ft. to 4500 ft. Unfortunately it was dark, but I'm sure the view of Oak Creek Canyon would have been amazing. I'm hoping we can take that road back out of town during the daylight to see it.

We arrived in Sedona in the freezing cold to a wonderfully charming room at the Sedona Views Bed & Breakfast. We're staying here until Thursday inshaaAllaah, and it's really wonderful. Two nights so far in a lovely room, followed by two delicious gourmet breakfasts. The host even prepared turkey bacon and turkey sausage since I informed him beforehand that we don't eat pork.

The first day here in Sedona it rained pretty much all day. And with that kind of weather we didn't want to risk taking the Hwy 89A up the hill (it's very twisty, but one of the most scenic roads in America we're told.) So we stayed in town, but after all the driving we've been doing, it was nice to just chill for a while. We stayed in, watched some Star Wars (husband's first time seeing it--we brought all six with us) and ate at a few local places. We also did some laundry in the afternoon since we'd been traveling for almost a week, and it was just time. But all in all, a nice way to spend a rainy day. Last night we got a little bit of dusting snow and ice, that's pretty much all melted now. But apparently Flagstaff got about 26 inches of snow, so no plans to drive that way today. For the moment, we're hoping that the roads will all be open tomorrow so we can drive up to the Grand Canyon.

Today we'll stay in town, check out some local sites and do a little shopping. Oh yeah, and buy some warmer clothes because it is frigid!

Saturday, December 05, 2009


I think I had way more fun than any adult should be allowed to at the space and rocket center. I even bought myself a "rocket scientist" T-shirt. I was squealing and grinning the whole time, thoroughly amusing my husband.

The shuttle (which is actually not my favorite part of NASA) was over in the Space Camp area so we couldn't get in. I snapped this shot from the parking lot--this mock-up is called Pathfinder.

It was just so much fun, despite the gray cloudy skies and low temperatures. But it's only gotten colder the further we've come West. After Alabama (and hey, we actually went through Georgia for about 10 minutes before getting into 'Bama and we picked up a magnet there) we went through Mississippi briefly, and I've got to say, there wasn't much to see along the way. Could've been the clouds, but I'm not sure.

But then we made it back into Tennessee to pick up I-40 in Memphis, where we stopped for dinner. It was dark when we actually crossed the Mississippi, so no pictures, but we did pick up a few nice postcards to see and remember what it might have looked like. I love this picture that Umer took at the restaurant in Memphis, experimenting with the "close-up" feature on the camera. Meanwhile, I was showing him where we are on the map--we were planning a long drive, even after dinner.

We stayed overnight in North Little Rock, Arkansas, and on Friday we drove the rest of the way across Arkansas. We stopped in Fort Smith for Jumu'ah, as Friday is the day of Jumu'ah (i.e., the day of congregational prayers.) While it's not obligatory on the traveler to pray Jumu'ah, we thought that since we could, it would be a nice thing to do. And it was. We found this mosque on in a town along our route (I-40.) Fort Smith

There were only about 20 brothers, my husband says, and only 4 sisters, but it was nice. They did not have an imam so a brother from the community was giving the khutbah. MaashaaAllaah. We give this masjid a 10/10. It was small but it definitely had suitable accommodations. While the women were praying in a separate room (which is never my preference) there was a great sound system and a high quality television set so the sisters could see the khateeb as well. Plus there were chairs and pillows available for sitting on the floor, and a clean spacious bathroom for wudhu. When making announcements they mentioned their attempts to find an imam and also to expand the masjid (as for Eid and Taraweeh prayers it was becoming too full.) May Allah help them and increase them and bless their community.

After jumu'ah we asked about a halal restaurant in town, and there was one, called the Silk Road Grill. My husband, watching me write this, says he just felt a need to drink water, just remembering this place! This is the first desi-style restaurant I've eaten at outside of the Raleigh area, and really I felt spoiled by Olive Green.

This chicken tikka masala that my husband ordered was so spicy (the highest spice level on their menu) that even though it was four stars on the menu, he says it's like 20 stars. I asked if it was too spicy for him, and he responded that it's too spicy for humans. And I tried it. So... I agree with him on that. But the dish I ordered, chicken qorma, was pretty yummy. Oh, we also had some hummus there and tandoori bread--which I'm told was very close to the taste it has in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

After lunch, we went on towards Oklahoma. The scenery there wasn't very exciting, but the sunset alone made everything look just stunning. We had dinner in Oklahoma City (a shockingly Christian town, I think--as there were crosses on the downtown highrises) and kept going a little further to Clinton, OK, where we spent the night at a Days Inn. So far it's the cheapest of the hotels we've stayed at, has the nicest TV and a microwave!

Tomorrow or the next day we'll need to do laundry, either at a hotel or laundromat. But by tomorrow night we should be in Sedona inshaaAllaah! Yay!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Smokies and Rockets

It rained most of the day on Wednesday--all through the mountains. We tried to drive some on the Blue Ridge Parkway--twice--only to find it closed down, and that we had to turn around and go back. So we had to take a different route. Getting to Cherokee, NC, was nice. It was a quaint little town, I wish I'd taken more pictures there.

We stopped at the visitor's center for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and then drove through it after buying a few souvenirs. It was beautiful, despite the rain. But we couldn't see much of the mountains, just lots of waterfalls. Coming out of the hills we went through Pigeon Forge, TN and stopped for lunch there.

Then we went on towards Knoxville then south to Chattanooga, by which time it was pretty dark. We actually made it all the way to Huntsville Wednesday night, so we were all set to visit the Space and Rocket Center this morning. That was super-fun. I practically squealed the first time I saw the rockets and who knows how many pictures of rockets I took while we were there. (Especially the super-huge Saturn V mock-ups!) We haven't uploaded those pictures from the camera yet, though.

Right now we just pulled into Little Rock, AR, and are about to fall asleep. We were planning to try to cross the entire state of Arkansas tonight and end up in Fort Smith but an hour before Little Rock sleep was knocking hard. This is our hotel (not our photo, however) and it's quite nice with a lovely staircase. As it's only two floors, there's no elevator! I think that's so cute!

But not cute enough to keep me awake for another minute. Goodnight!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Rainy Mountain Morning

I have to admit: I cried. When saying goodbye to my parents the tears started to come--helped in part by my dad's emotional speech and my mom's sad face.

But after sharing a late lunch with them and after our heartfelt goodbyes, my hubby and I set out on the first day of our honeymoon. We made it as far as Asheville where we spent the night.

As expected, thanks to the Weather Channel app on my iphone, this morning greeted us with cold rain. We just finished eating breakfast at the IHOP and now are ready to get on the Blue Ridge Parkway!