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Colonial Williamsburg

Last Stop  │  Next Stop

Colonial Williamsburg Virginia Horse and Carriage

Walking down the pathway was definitely better than the shuttle offered. I felt we were slipping away from the modern rat race and into a living history.

Before reaching the former capital of Virginia, we stepped off the path to see an outlying homestead. The pause aided the transition to the historically accurate, eighteenth century community spanning 300 acres. Gone were the sounds of automobiles. Here were residents in costume and the original and reconstructed buildings of Colonial Williamsburg. It features some 500 buildings of which 88 are original structures.

Colonial Williamsburg Brick Buildings

Our next stop set the mood and expectations for a day like no other. In the Governor’s Palace, we gathered to hear a story by a young lady who seemed peeled from the history books and presented before us with exuberant life. This was no tour, it seemed real!

War currents swirled in the air. Revolution was on the horizon. And we were part of it. In fact, it was during the Revolutionary War that the capital of Virginia was moved to Richmond.

Colonial Williamsburg Houses

Marveling at the architecture and gardens as we walked along white picket fences cooled by the enormous shade trees, an unruly gathering occurred in the sprawling lawn before the Governor’s Mansion. We joined the rapidly growing group of tourists and discontents. The plentiful reenactors throughout Colonial Williamsburg worked, socialized, dressed and talked just as people did in colonial times, never breaking character.

Arguments broke out in the crowd. The tension was thick.

“Liberty or death! Liberty or death!” began chanting a young man raising his sword into the air shouting at the top of his lungs.

Within minutes we were swept up in a crowd, nearly trampled, as about a hundred people walked with men carrying muskets and swords while several banged on their war drums. As we approached the Governor’s Mansion, the governor was seen fleeing to the rooftop.


After the crowd dispersed, the unlikeliest of all sites lay before our historic eyes. It was Santa Claus. Well, more like Santa on vacation. With his full white beard and a bowl full of jelly, he also sported bright red shorts. He even laughed like Santa. But Santa on vacation also came with a ball cap, sandals, map and shopping bag.

“Oh-ho-ho,” we definitely snapped a photo of that!

Santa Claus at Colonial Williamsburg

The walk into downtown was nostalgic to say the least. Stylish colonial ladies waved the heat away with their fancy fans. Another lady in a dress sat side saddle on a horse, resting beneath a tall tree at the edge of a dirt road. Laughter from a parked carriage bellowed into the street from a young colonial couple yacking it up with pedestrian friends whose paths crossed by chance. A nearby British flag flapped in the breeze. We continued down a brick sidewalk. A lady came out a front door and beat the dust out of a rug. We were headed to see a fencing lesson.

An elder gentleman gave stern instruction to a younger man eager to learn from the expert swordsman. Both wore knee high leather boots and three quarter length coats. Metal clanged and the crowd around grew larger with each clank of the swords.


Once the streets, sidewalks and storefronts were bustling with intrigued visitors, and costumed colonials littered the crowd, a man on horseback came barreling down the road kicking up clouds of dust shouting for all to hear.

“Blood has been spilled in Massachusetts! British regulars seized gun powder from the magazine in Lexington!”

An ear piercing shriek came from a woman mixed in the crowd, “That’s the same as they did here! It is a conspiracy just as some of us suspected.”

Each actor wore a tiny, nearly unnoticeable microphone that made every word ring with drama that captured everyone’s attention and interest.

A man appeared on the porch of a tavern arguing, “We are only to assume a posture of DEFENSE. Not offense! We cannot be so eager for violence and retribution!”


Later, around a corner, “black folk” were having a conversation. They contemplated what freedoms a revolution may bring them. But after reading more from a bulletin out loud, they realized that any resulting freedoms would not include theirs. The fate of their people was best surmised by a towering man that burst into the surrounding crowd with sudden disgust, “DAMN!”


Our day was filled with such “random” gatherings and outbursts albeit pinpointed by place and time in our visitor’s guide.

After we ate a very tasty colonial lunch in one of the taverns, we explored the courthouse in the midst of a trial. The kids became prisoners in the stockade. We admired the authenticity of those working their trades in shops, including shoe repair, blacksmith, printing, gunsmith, wig maker and plenty more.

stockade at colonial williamsburg

A rather elegant carriage led by two horses came to a halt, was tied off and a wealthier looking colonial couple got out to fetch their repaired shoes from inside.

The rows of wood houses were painted in pleasing colors from reds to yellows to whites. The architecture of the old rooftop shingles, wooden shutters and brick chimneys was fantastic. The vastness of the town was quite a lot to take in but we managed. Inside and out, there was constant buzz. The kids stood on a crate to peer into a window here and there. This truly was living history.

colonial williamsburg chimneys colonial williamsburg rooftops

Then there was the call to sign up and fight. Young as our children were, they were old enough to enlist. So they signed their names into a ledger and entered an area where there was a gathering of arms. Young men gathered in social circles dressed for war, resting against trees, muskets in hand. Stacks of cannon balls grew next to rows of cannons.

cannons cannon balls at colonial williamsburg

Before there was any bloodshed, we took a few more tours of historic buildings and learned the stories of their inhabitants. And near the end of the return path out of Yesteryear, there was a plaque in the sidewalk that had these words, “What difference will you make?” We put our feet around it and snapped a photo.

Colonial Williamsburg pathway

Once we were back at the visitors’ center, we noticed the signs for the restrooms were cleverly designed. Each had a colonial person standing, like a woman in colonial hat and dress. It also had a colonial person sitting in a wheel chair. My wife thought it was a photo we needed but every time she snapped the shot, someone walked out the restroom doors, looked startling at her and then behind them, pondering, “What the hell…”

colonial williamsburg bathroom signs bathroom-sign-men-women-colonial-williamsburg

When she finally got her uninterrupted shot, we turned and noticed a trend she started. Other women were also trying to capture the signs with their camera phones. Anyone coming out of the rest room must have felt the Paparazzi-effect – something very un-colonial but always in mind when we reflect back on Colonial Williamsburg.

By Rocco Satullo, your tour guide to fun!

Next Stop: Mount Vernon next right
last leftLast Stop:  Jamestown


governor's palace colonial williamsburg

garden at colonial williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg clock-tower

shoe repair at colonial williamsburg

militia at colonial williamsburg

horses at colonial williamsburg



Last Stop  │  Next Stop

Historic Jamestown Settlement

My daughter had decided that she wanted a photo of her mimicking statues at each site we visited. When we arrived at Historic Jamestown Settlement, there to greet us was Pocahontas with outstretched arms.

My daughter stood at the statue’s feet and tried to get her posture and hands right. Exiting was an Asian family. The tiny grandmother whisked over to my daughter and directed her. But the feisty grandma’s words were not English. The spoken language barrier was no barrier at all. Not when body language was universal. The little old lady posed to show my daughter how she should look. Then, the little old lady took her hands and physically started positioning my daughter’s feet, hands and hips. When she was pleased, she flashed a big smile, nodded her head and said something upbeat before scurrying off to rejoin her family.

Spontaneity and kindness always translates into a memorable moment anywhere you go. We laughed about it among our family as the little old lady did with hers as we walked our separate ways.

The site of the first permanent English settlement in America was alive. Something made it talk to me as I watched archeologists busy excavating in a roped off section of tiered dirt plateaus that plunged below normal ground level. It made the history seem that much more real. Kitty corner from that spot was a brick shell of a recreated 1608 church. Earlier excavation uncovered the original remains of what is known to be the earliest Protestant church in North America.

It was surreal to stand at the marker of a nondescript water’s edge and know that this was the landing spot of a people who would change a continent dramatically in a short while. With the beating heat, it was nice to retreat into the museum where fascination over the artifacts taken from the land right outside were displayed and explained.

Jamestown 1

Jamestown was founded in 1607 and was the capital of Virginia until 1699 when it moved to Williamsburg. The three ships that transported the first settlers were named Susan Contsant, Godspeed, and Discovery. The colony was started by 104 men and boys who survived the trip across the Atlantic in addition to 39 crew members. One person died on the journey.

Captain John Smith was going to be put to death upon arrival for mutiny but when they landed, sealed orders were opened naming Smith a member of the governing Council.


Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, was credited for saving Smith’s life from the Opechancanough. She was later abducted by Englishmen, converted to Christianity and took the name, Rebecca. After marrying John Rolfe, they traveled with their young son to England where she became ill and died.

The “Starving Time” spanned 1609 – 1610 when the combination of drought, supply ship delays and severely curtailed Indian trade caused a brief abandonment of the colony. Only 60 of the 500 colonists at that time survived the hardship.


The first Africans appeared in 1619 as indentured servants. Indentured servants, white and black, served for a time, earning their own way. William Tucker was the first black man born in the colonies and was considered a free man at birth. Around 1640, court records indicate the first known slave. His name was John Punch. He was an indentured servant who ran away and was captured. He was then sentenced to lifelong servitude.

As we walked along we were puzzled by the fake coyotes stuck in the ground that swayed slightly with the breeze. We learned that this was an effective way of controlling the amount of goose poop deposited in unwanted areas.

I checked the bottom of my shoes. Dammit!


Separate from Historic Jamestown, the actual historic site, was the nearby Jamestown Settlement which depicted a living history of the community with reenactors. I got a kick out of the number of Caucasian Native Americans (Powhatan Indians) demonstrating the skinning of animal hides and other practices for survival.

Jamestown Settlement

The kids loved the many hands-on experiences taught by knowledgeable and personality rich, costumed historical interpreters. But it was alone with my family in the harbor that I enjoyed a particular hands-on experience my two kids tried desperately to do. It was a fail. Over and over, it was a fail. And over and over, I chuckled at their determination in trying to hoist a full bucket of water using ropes from the dock. It was heavy. It would get stuck on the cross ropes forming a fence of sorts. They would shout at each other while trying to work together. A few times I started to consider what to do to treat severe rope burns but fortunately I never had to hash it out.

Ah, the little things, right?

Jamestown Settlement Tall Sail Ships

The three replica ships that sailed the original settlers, docked in the harbor, were great photo ops. We boarded and enjoyed exploring the vessels. When the captain emerged from his quarters, he looked every bit the part. He sounded it too. And he was more than happy to pose for family photos as he anchored himself between the kids.

That’s when Mother Nature had a word with us followed by park employees.

“Head for shelter! A big storm is rolling in!”

But we had more of the settlement to see outside so we lingered. How bad could it be? How long would it last? It didn’t matter because all of the employees buttoned up the colonist’s fort and headed indoors. Reluctantly, we had no choice but to follow.

By Rocco Satullo, your tour guide to fun!

Next Stop: Colonial Williamsburg next right
last leftLast Stop: Monticello


Last Stop  │  Next Stop

Monticello Thomas Jefferson Home

Before we all awoke to set out to see Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, I was counting sheep. Then I started counting cookies. After dinner the night before, we went to Subway just to get cookies and made it there right before they closed. They gave us more than a dozen for free.

Whether it’s cookies or ice cream, I have zero will power. So, even though I felt guilty, I devoured every last cookie and crumb sitting on a table at the foot of the hotel bed, hoping my crunching wouldn’t wake anyone else up.

There was hell to pay in the morning. I cowered out of shame like my dog does when he knows he did something he should not have done.

Anyway, all was right in the kids’ world after indulging on chocolate pancakes. Now we were ready for our magical history tour.

One of the fascinating things about the trip was how history wove connections up the coast as we went. For example, Jefferson had an incredible personal library of books. But only a fraction of which remained at Monticello. When the Library of Congress burned – destroying its collection of books – during the War of 1812, Jefferson restarted it with his own personal collection. Later on in the trip, we visited the Library of Congress – such an astonishingly beautiful place – and saw Jefferson’s original book collection. To think, it was once the entire collection for the Library of Congress.

Going into the tour of Monticello, I knew the tales about Jefferson’s promiscuity with his female slaves.  But what I didn’t know is that DNA proved a slave by the name of Sally Hemmings mothered at least one child by Jefferson. More interesting was that Hemmings was the half-sister of Jefferson’s wife, Martha. Hemmings was inherited with Martha’s father’s estate. Another interesting note, in light of Jefferson’s “closeness” to his slaves is that he did not free them all in his will as George Washington had.

Monticello was designed with some very unique characteristics. Two stuck with me. The first was his bed built to divide two rooms, his bedroom from his office (called cabinet). This set-up was designed to save space. And it had the first skylights in the U.S.  The second was a peculiar clock in the entrance hall. It was powered by cannon ball-like weights on ropes but it was too long so a hole was cut into the floor allowing it to extend to the cellar below. Therefore, all of the plaques with days of the week weren’t visible at once. Later, we made it our mission to explore the cellar to find Saturday.


Before departing this historic wonder, and its grand gardens, landscaping, architecture and past, we marveled at one last incredulous footnote in American history.

On the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence – July 4, 1826 – the last two founding fathers, former Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died. They had been friends, fellow revolutionaries and adversaries. In 1796, they ran against each other in the nation’s first contested presidential election. And it got ugly!

On his death bed, Adam’s last words were, “At least Jefferson still lives,” but Jefferson had actually preceded him in death by several hours.


Later while unwinding, I happened across the kids’ journals we were “forcing” them to keep. Their entries thus far made it sound like we were on the vacation from hell! Entries included, “We have spent the past few hours listening to Dad play his terrible music,” and “Look kids, history …more history …more history …can’t wait until we get a day at the beach!”

This was not what I had in mind for journals of a vacation costing an arm and a leg. So I confronted the kids about it. They laughed and said when we set out, they decided to keep a spoof journal that did nothing but make fun of me and this trip. I wasn’t exactly down with that but since it was all in good humor, I let it slide. Much as they tried to diss the vacation for comedic relief, their journals later produced some real gems that I would save and cherish for years to come. The first sign of profound things to appear later was a simple acknowledgement that said, “I like the small things but appreciate the big things. The big things bridge it all together.”

By Rocco Satullo, your tour guide to fun!

Next Stop: Jamestown next right
last leftLast Stop:  A Slap Happy Start


A Slap Happy Start

To The Magical History Tour

Last Stop  │  Next Stop


A Slap Happy Start to an East Coast Adventure

Two things are sure when you plan a vacation. One is you’ll come out the other side remembering things you didn’t seek. The other is that it is always more expensive than any estimate going in.

When we shared our plans to zigzag up the east coast on what we dubbed our “magical history tour,” others didn’t understand this type of vacation.

“Wow, that’s aggressive” or “You’ll need a vacation after your vacation” capsulate the comments we heard. Oh, another was that we wouldn’t be anyplace long enough to truly experience it.

But we were veterans of such family road trips to see America. So we knew full well what we were going to experience was the unexpected and that was what our trips were about. Littered in were the usual, and some unusual, tourist attractions and traps.

We started with a long day’s drive to get to Virginia. By suppertime, we were slap happy. Our vacation had just begun and already a relatively well-mannered family was about to slip on a banana peel of inappropriateness.

That proverbial banana peel came in the form of a sign across from our restaurant sporting two O’s next to each other with a small center darkened low in each. The name of the place was lit in neon and had the letters b,o,o,b,s but not in that order. We didn’t care. And when we started play-asking each other directions to “Boobs Bakery” in a Swedish accent, we grew louder and louder with roaring belly laughter.

“Thut might nut beee thu wooord dey say in theeez country, yaw?”

It was okay while we were the only patrons but when the place filled in, our attempts to hold back made matters worse. One snort instead of letting a laugh out loud and we were all four doubled-over. I hate people like that! And here we were those people!

One thing led to another and as the kids today say, “That was random.” And so it was when the conversation turned, setting sights on my tattoo.

I have a silly tattoo on my arm of a mouse I got years ago in the Army. The 18-year-old me thought it was a design I could live with for the rest of my life. The middle-aged me thought differently.

So in our melee of a good time in this restaurant, my kids took rare notice of my exposed tattoo. My son quipped, “Can you make your drunk mouse dance?”

My daughter literally shot soda (I’m from the Midwest so I really want to say “pop” not “soda”) out of her mouth and made a scene with her uncontrollable laughter.

“Why was that so funny?” I asked pulling my short sleeve down a bit over my mouse.

She revealed that what she had heard was, “Can you make your junk dance?”

We all lost it!

“Come on now, we’re not over there at Boobs!”

I honestly thought we were going to be shown the door.

By Rocco Satullo, your tour guide to fun!

Next Stop: Monticello next right

last leftLast Stop: East Coast


Pelee, The Island Of Laughter

Pelee Island Lighhouse

By Frank Rocco Satullo,
Your Tour Guide to Fun

Our first trip to a lesser traveled Great Lakes’ island started with horror and then built into a wonderful week of fun and adventure for everyone. The memories and storytelling of our visit to Lake Erie’s largest island are why we’ve made it a repeat trip. It’s kind of ironic considering nothing happens fast on Pelee Island. But it allows our extended family quality time together, which is what this kind of vacation is supposed to do.

Before I share the entertaining tale of the attack of the blood thirsty black flies, let’s start at the beginning of this island adventure.

Most of us couldn’t stomach the ferry ride to Pelee Island. It was nighttime and Lake Erie was white capping. Grandma regretted her sugary snack and cup of coffee. Her eyes fixated at the bottom of a bag. The contents of her stomach followed. The boys returned from the bow, soaked head to toe. They were having the time of their lives facing uncertainty on the high seas.

The next day, we awoke at our beachfront rental to sunny skies and waves that were still pretty big. We swam, diving into the breaking waves all morning. Then, we noticed swimming companions peeking out from the water, shooting from waves, doing wild wrapping rituals on the beach. They were Lake Erie water snakes; an endangered species but you wouldn’t have known that from looking around. Pelee Island was a haven for them as well as the endangered blue racer snake. It’s the only place in Canada you will see either of those two snakes. Another endangered snake on the island is the eastern foxsnake. Anyway, after seeing several water snakes near me in the water, I beached myself but the kids were having too much fun to care.


Pelee Island was perfect for bicycle riding an afternoon away so that’s what we decided to do. Our destination was to be an old lighthouse built nearly 200 years ago. Before we set out, we all took turns spraying each other with bug repellent.

“I swear they’re biting me more after I put the repellent on than before,” I complained to my wife.  She said it was my imagination. Maybe it was.

It was time to go and Grandma, my mom, zoomed ahead. She lives life like she’s forever 12.

“Why doesn’t Grandma have to wear a bicycle helmet?” asked my 12-year-old daughter.

“Just ride,” several of us sighed.

My niece was not very good at riding a bicycle, especially compared to her daredevil little brother. So, the pack broke in two. I kept pace with my daughter, son and nephew. My mom stayed back – much as she loved riding fast with a huge grin and wild eyes – with my niece, wife, sister and sister’s boyfriend. About every quarter-mile, my niece wiped out. But the fractured pack kept moving down the road to an end of the island where we would eventually pick up a trailhead to a beach and finally the lighthouse.

I kept getting bit by black flies. No one else seemed to notice, so I gutted it out and continued. I really had no choice. It was more of a nuisance than anything else. Nearly two miles into the ride, there was a considerable gap between my group of kids and my niece’s group of adults. I nearly jackknifed my bike I was bit so damn hard by a black fly. It hurt but that pain was quickly eclipsed by another, and another and another.

I was miserable.

It turned out that I was no longer the only one. My daughter and nephew were ahead of my son and me. They slowed down because the black flies grew thicker and thicker. The four of us pressed on a little bit further, hoping we’d blow through the swarm. By the time we reached the end of the road and the beginning of the trailhead, we were engulfed in a cloud of black flies. My daughter was hurting out loud, my son had no filter as he shrieked from the constant biting, and my little nephew suffered in silence. I yelled at the flies. It was all I could do before we turned around and tried to flee. My daughter was the fastest out of there. I hung back with the two young boys. They needed to keep both hands on their handlebars and that kept them from swatting at the meat-eating flies. The swarm was so thick, and the bites so ferocious, my son was bleeding. I considered maybe it was my scent since I had attracted them long before anyone else even noticed. I told the boys to ride ahead and follow my daughter.

Once they were well ahead of me, I rode like the wind in my effort to escape the misery. But misery was glued to me. As it turned out, the flies never left the boys, either, nor my daughter for that matter. When the four of us flew past the slower-paced riders, headed in the opposite direction, the kids were screaming in pain – except for my silent nephew – from the constant biting. As the slower group described to us later, when we flew past them our white shirts looked black, and we resembled a bad Pig-Pen scene from the Peanuts comic strip. As for me, they reported that I looked just like a bee-keeper blanketed in bees. The black cloud stuck to me no matter where I went. As I rode past the slower group, I yelled to turn around but it was too late. The flies swarmed them, too, unbeknownst to me because I had the boys to worry about. My daughter was too far ahead for me to have any immediate concern.


It was sheer terror for about two miles. At some point, my wife left her slower group and caught up to us, typical of a mother needing to protect her young.

I had to make the painful decision to have the boys stop their bicycles a couple of times to shake and swat the flies away.

After a while, I said, “Just ride! The only way this is going to stop is getting back to the house.”

It was awful not being able to help them. Both boys were downright scared. My son yelled out loud. My nephew had horror in his eyes but never said a peep. They both rode and rode because there was no alternative. They looked to me for help but there was nothing I could do except emphasize that the only way to make it stop was to get back so ride-ride-ride!

Finally, we got back, shook the flies off and ran inside to safety. I went back outside to look down the road to see how far back the others were. That’s when my sister skid across the lawn, jumped from her bike before it stopped and sped off in her car. It happened in a blur.

Because my niece couldn’t ride a bike far under normal conditions, she was being eaten alive along with everyone in her group. She was in hysterics by the time the rescue vehicle brought her back.

An hour later, small amounts of blood were wiped from the fair-skinned youngsters. Tears dried and medicine applied, we sat around the room overlooking the beach and lake, completely drained from the experience.

My niece joined us. She was washed up and wrapped in a towel for comfort.

Since I wasn’t with her on the ride, I said, “Tell me about your awesome bike ride.”

Her bottom lip puffed out as she softly replied, “I fell down a hill, got scraped and got eaten by flies.”

“So it was fun,” I teased.

“No,” she said sheepishly.

“Was it kind of fun?” Grandma asked.

She looked through sad eyes with that puffy lip expression and faintly said, “Yes.”

The room erupted in laughter because we all knew this was an incredible experience we’d not soon forget.

The rest of the week was one wonderful adventure after another. We didn’t go anywhere without riding bikes and rarely saw a motor vehicle. The island is as flat as flat can be so even little kids can ride bikes pretty much all day long. It’s probably why a popular Ontario marathon is held there. If you don’t bring your own bikes, no worries, there’s a bicycle shop on the island just down the street from the ferry port in what you might call downtown. This stretch has a restaurant and bar, antique store, museum, ice cream stand, the bicycle shop and not much else. Be sure to bring your own groceries! There is a commissary on the other side of the island, but it’s nothing like a full grocery store. If you run out of some staple items, you can hopefully get them there.

A few days later, we worked up our bravery to return to the site of the historic lighthouse. We were astonished that not a single black fly was anywhere to be found this time around.


The trailhead led us to an unmarked split in the trail so we turned right and walked over a little footbridge instead of continuing straight. It led to a beach and long sandy walk toward The Pelee Island Lighthouse. All and all, it’s about a mile long walk from the road to the northeastern tip of the island and Lighthouse Point Provincial Nature Reserve.

The whitewashed tower was erected in 1833 and became inactive in 1903. You cannot go inside but it is a photogenic piece of architecture. The quaint tower has giant wood beams braced at angles from the ground, leaning partially up its walls for further support to protect it from decay due to the erosion of crashing waves. The timbers certainly add to its allure and picturesque quality. Surrounded by huge boulders, trees and brush, it’s no wonder much of the island’s art shops use it as a focal point.

Historic Pelee Island Lighthouse

Leaving no stone unturned so-to-speak on this day of adventure, we learned the legend of Hulda’s Rock. This story centers on an unassuming rock jutting from the shoals just offshore. Hulda was an Indian maiden. She was the beautiful daughter and pride of the island tribe’s chief. One day a pale face man came to the island for fish and game. But his heart and hers intertwined. So he stayed. Happy years passed and then came word of the man’s dying mother on a distant shore. So Hulda’s love went to be by his mother’s side one last time. He pledged his return to his true love before another moon should wane. But many moons came and went, and with each Hulda’s heartache grew to unbearable pain. Eventually, a letter made its way to Hulda’s outstretched hands.

It was… “A letter that brought a withering blight
And broke a faithful heart that night;
That told a tale of broken trust
And hurled bright hopes down in the dust.

Hark! Hark, a wail of dark despair
Floats out upon the midnight air;
A splash is heard, and Pelee’s pride
Floats out upon blue Erie’s tide.

Upon the north of Pelee Isle,
There stranger liner but awhile;
View “Hulda’s rock” – the mariner’s guide,
That marks the fate of the Indian bride.

It marks that death-leap into the sea,
And marks a white man’s perfidy.
The waves that gainst it foam and surge
Seem chanting e’er a funeral dirge.”


As we biked to another part of the island we came across a rather large, roadside, stone model of an old winery that used to be on the island. Its ruins can still be seen today. It was called Vin Villa and it was the first known winery in Ontario, Canada. It was built by Thaddeus Smith in 1868. His wine cellar was cut 12 feet deep into solid rock. The cellar was 40 feet wide by 60 feet long. The basement was built over top of it. The entrance was large enough for horses and wagons with full loads of grapes to clear. From the ground up stood a one and a half story, southern-style mansion. The entire structure was built from the stones hewn out of the wine cellar. It was mostly burned to the ground in 1963, leaving some tall stone walls reaching skyward along with the trees now rooted all-around what’s left of this architectural gem.


A newer winery is just down the road from the stone model. Just follow the vineyards to the Pelee Island Winery. Here, you can barbeque your own meal on a gorgeous outdoor patio large enough for many groups to do the same but with enough space between grills and tables to feel you’re on your own. Special entertainment is often in the air mixing with the sweet smell of grapes. The pavilion is the hub of island activity. An interactive wine tour and tasting is definitely recommended. Heck, you can even sit at a table inside a giant wine barrel if that’s your taste.

As I mentioned earlier, this was not our only retreat to Pelee Island. In a recent visit, we spent time at two wonderfully strange stops and gathered more sea glass than we had anywhere else, including Glass Beach in California.

But first, like the first time around, our week started with an unexpected obstacle to overcome.

We hopped in our car once they rolled it off the ferry, and headed for the customs checkpoint. After all, this was Canada and we were entering from the United States. Anyway, I was in an honest mood so when the customs officer asked if I had any pepper spray, I said yes. Now, I did pause to consider how to answer. I quickly wondered if they already knew because we were separated from our vehicle on the ferry where they were parked below and out of sight. When I said yes and had my wife hand me the tiny bottle from the glove compartment, my 17-year-old daughter spoke up and said, “I have Mace in my purse. Is that illegal?”

So I was escorted to a little building to find out.

Inside it was explained to me that if I did not voluntarily give them the spray, I would have been in serious doo-doo if they had found it on their own. According to the agents (Is that what they are called?), pepper spray is considered a weapon and if they would have found it, the situation would have been treated exactly the same as if I were trying to smuggle in any other type of weapon. I filled out some paperwork and left the spray bottles with them.

We rolled up to another beachfront stay only this one was very secluded. There was nobody else in sight, except for dozens of geese bathing on our beach. But hey, no snakes. None that we could see anyway.


Pelee Island is a major destination to see migrating birds as they pause there on their flight across Lake Erie. The Pelee Island Bird Observatory is a member of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network. During peak migration, experienced birders regularly report citing more than 100 species per day. The island is a haven for songbirds. Common migrating species include horned larks, ducks, geese, swans, common flickers, tree swallows, hermit thrushes, winter wrens, gulls, herons, swallows, woodpeckers, rails, sparrows, hawks, thrushes and warblers. And that’s the short list!

Every morning and evening, most of us combed up and down the beach and found sea glass that washed up with the tide. My nephew was the “sea glass whisperer.” He perfected a ritual he had developed. He’d chant and dance for the island sea glass gods from a boulder at the water’s edge before his hunts. It worked because he found more sea glass than anyone else.


Almost from the get-go, we headed out on our bicycles for a 17 mile trip around the island, hitting our favorite spots, including two roadside novelties I have yet to reveal. Along the way, there was lots of waving to strangers as you rode past one another much like boaters out on the lake. Keep in mind, bicycling is easy on this flat island unless you choose some of the inner island roads which can be deep in gravel. Then it’s like riding in quicksand. But the perimeter and main interior roads were pretty much smooth sailing.

Still, be careful. Just like several years earlier, my niece had her biking troubles. This time, someone stopped suddenly and the chain reaction had her swerve to miss the person in front of her only to find just beyond the brush – on almost every road mind you – is a steep drop to an old canal. These trenches are all throughout the island’s interior. So over the handlebars she went, skidding headfirst until she tangled in enough foliage to stop her from the murky stagnant water below. It was a minor miracle that we could pull her back up by the ankles and that she didn’t have a scratch on her.

Things were going our way.

The island is chock full of hidden surprises. But we were well aware of two strategically spaced ice cream huts that always proved to be great stopping points for rest and refreshments. One was just down the road from a water toy rental place we had not known about. They had everything there to provide hours of fun in Lake Erie. You could rent kayaks, paddleboards, and a number of other toys by the hour, half-day or all day.

As we circled the island we came to one of our two favorite stops – the shoe tree. There were so many pairs of shoes tied together by their laces and snagged on branches that one limb had broken. It was now braced back up with the help of some supports. My niece pulled a pair of old tennis shoes from her backpack and proceeded to add to this weird form of art. But it proved more difficult than it looked to actually get a pair of shoes to wrap their laces around a branch. Finally, her place in shoe tree history was secured. At least as long as the shoelaces would take to rot through.


A short distance further down the western side of the island is a haven for Inukshuks perched along the stony shoreline, gazing out to sea. An Inukshuk is a human-looking stone structure that usually includes stacked stones for the legs, a long stone laid across the leg stones creating hips, and another even longer stone stacked on top of it for shoulders. Finally, a rounder stone was hoisted and centered at the top to form the head. These landmarks were created by Inuit and other tribes of native people spanning North America. They marked that someone was here and you are on the right path. It was the official symbol used for the Vancouver Winter Olympics. On Canada’s Pelee Island, overlooking all the smaller, makeshift stone men left by passersby, is the Stoneman. This massive stone sculpture was designed as a testament to island perseverance. It was built by Pete Letkeman and named by the students of Pelee Island Public School. Yes, people do live here year-round. There are a lot of farms on the island. There’s even a small public library.


Although trips in the car were done sparingly, it was necessary for exploring the many artisan and antique stores dotting the island. And of course, how else were we to transport back to the rental house all the tastiness we boxed up at Conorlee’s Bakery & Delicatessen? For the heck of it, we also stopped at the Pelee Island Heritage Center. It had some pretty cool old-time exhibits. The pinned map of shipwrecks in western Lake Erie stood out as did the diverse collection of kites on display.


We wished our island stay overlapped with the much-hyped annual summer music festival – The Island Unplugged. It’s a family-friendly music and arts festival featuring music acts from regional to national fame. An old rock quarry on the island serves as a unique setting for a wide variety of special events.

Back at the rental house, we had eight of us circled around a huge wooden dining table playing a board game and laughing it up. The house had no air-conditioning because the screened windows all around provided all the coolness you needed. An unexpected and massive crack of thunder shook everyone out of their skin. The breeze picked up and the sun dimmed but we figured we had enough time for someone to finish their turn at the game before we went outside to watch the storm roll in.

That’s when a hurricane-force wind blasted us and everything in the house!

Contents of shelves blew to the floor, a picture flew off the wall, and darkness fell on us all. We scrambled to an interior closet, emptied it and packed it with bodies. When all was clear, we assessed the damage and wondered how long before electricity would be restored. It wasn’t much of a storm. It hardly rained and after the first few minutes of wind blasts, it was pretty much over.

We soon found out that the toilets and water supply also needed electricity to work.

In the morning, we discovered a couple of telephone poles on our edge of the island had blown over. The other half of the island still had power. But our fate rested in the hands of a crew that had to be notified on the mainland and catch a ferry across before they could even begin working to restore the lost power. So we headed to the commissary and bought the last of the bottled water they had available.

Afterward, we rode our bikes to the southernmost point on the island, known as Fish Point Provincial Nature Preserve. Other than the nearby, tiny and uninhabited Middle Island, Pelee Island was the furthest populated point you could stand in Canada. And in a freak of nature, it has a sand bar created by competing currents. It twists southward like a tail creating what is known as Point Pelee. While on the wooded trail to get from the road to the sandy beaches and Point Pelee, we took a wrong turn. The trail turned but we went straight because the shore was right there. So we spent a lot of time and energy navigating enormous pieces of driftwood. It was pretty to be sure. So pretty, a couple had a photographer snapping shots of them with the smooth, wavy, sun-bleached and the barkless tree remains as their backdrop to happiness.


Finally, we reached the Point Pelee beach and the long walk out to its southernmost tip. Pelee. From an aerial view, which my brother-in-law had when he flew to the U.S. mainland in a four-seater airplane, the island with its sandy tail looks like a stingray. The sand is soft and deep making it one helluva workout to trek across. When we neared the Point, the kids ran through the hundreds of seagulls blanketing the last stretch of the island’s tail. The seagulls lazily took to the air creating quite a dizzying sight of white in every direction we looked.

Our last evening was filled with s’more over a beach fire, hammock time, swimming, sea glass hunting, and stargazing.

Fully relaxed and ready to face the hectic lives we all had to return to, we retreated inside. The lights flickered and turned on for the first time in 24-hours.

As we reminisced about our island escapades, we were reminded why Pelee is an island of laughter.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, Your Tour Guide to Fun


Pelee Point


Pelee Island Point


Outer Banks Feed The Inner Soul

outer banks sunrise

Just our luck. In the weeks leading into our beach vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, there was a shark attack, then another, another, again and again all along the eastern seaboard near where we were headed. Holy crap!

So on the marathon drive there, we pulled over for the night at a place with a pool.

“Kids, you better swim now!”

Our pit stop was just outside Colonial Williamsburg, a place we’d been before but during the bustling daytime activities. It’s one of those places that leaves such an impression that you yearn to return but upon doing so, it just isn’t the same. The daytime energy and theatrics were gone, leaving a ghost town in more ways than one.

Colonial Williamsburg

On our ghost tour, we enjoyed the drama of the actors and dinner in an historic tavern authentic of the colonial times like everything else so well done here. Afterward, we stopped in the lobby for our teens to have the fortune teller glimpse into their future. Our daughter went first and when the routine was over, our son went next.

The fortune teller made an obvious break in character and turned to us and said, “They pulled the same two cards in the same order from the fanned out deck.”

He seemed weirded out by it. To us, it was a sign of our typical family vacation.

The next morning we got on the highway, drove a bit and exited for a pancake house. We were led in a big loop and after a while, my wife pointed out the motel we had left earlier.

“Doo-doo-doo-doo. Doo-doo-doo-doo…” – That’s the theme music from The Twighlight Zone playing in our heads.

With five hours still to drive, we settled in and made up a game in which we’d ad-lib a story sparked by billboards in relay fashion building on what the last person said in regard to the last sign. Then, a huge bright billboard advertised, “I got my crabs from Dirty Dick’s.”

Game over.

outer banks wooden fishing pier

We arrived at our beach house rental in Kill Devil Hills a little early. The lock box was on a timer so it wasn’t ready to take our code. We hit the beach and took note of the nearby, wavy wooden fishing pier.

Shark bait was all I could think.

We went shopping at a grocery store called Food Lion.

By now, we were in a slap-happy mood. At every stop in the store, I made a ritual of saying, “Food Lion. RAWR!” while making a hand gesture in the air clawing downward toward my family.

The laughter made me continue well past its expiration. And the awkward glances by other shoppers meant I wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. We were having a ball with our silliness and that’s all that mattered. Vacation had officially begun.

I made it my (our) mission to see a spectacular sunrise. So we were up at 5:30 a.m. ready for the ball of fire to rise out of the ocean at 5:55 a.m. But there were too many clouds to see it. The kids groaned and went back to bed.


All day was spent splashing in the sun …notice I didn’t say water. In fact, it was like the beach scene in the movie Jaws after the shark attacks. Nobody was swimming. At best, we’d wade out knee-high. But the beach was festive. We invented a game from some colorful plastic rings and balls we brought with us. It caught the attention of those strolling by. They thought they were witnessing the newest thing to hit the market.

That night we took a family walk along the beach. The sand ahead of us seemed to move with every step we took. Then we concentrated our flashlights together for closer examination. Our daughter shrieked. Ghost crabs scurried every which way clearing a path for us. We gave chase and had fun with this novelty for some time.

Another day another failed sunrise. But there would be no going back to bed on this morning because we had wild horses to see. The kids’ eyes opened when our four-wheeling machine headed into Corolla. Oh the pressure these guides have to return happy customers pleased to see what they deem their share of wild horse encounters. It struck me funny that we were zigzagging between multimillion dollar vacation homes looking for wild horses. A radio call later and our guide was zipping this way and that through sandy paths to another set of houses. There was a wild horse grazing just off someone’s back patio while the homeowner sipped their morning coffee like this was the normal routine.

corolla wild horses

Anyway, the experience seemed anything but wild.

Finally, away from man’s encroachment, wild horses actually looked like they were as advertised. Back out on the beach, several horses stretched their morning legs. This is what I wanted to see. It was beautiful. My imagination wondered what it must have been like before money bought up paradise here.

wild horses of corolla outer banks

A storm allowed us to nap away the afternoon before a second morning so-to-speak opened our eyes and the flood gates back to the beach.

That night, we sat around the dinner table and played the board game Clue. In the middle of the whodunit mystery, another mystery began to unfold with a knock at our door. Mind you it’s dark and we left our curtains open with lights on, advertising here’s a vulnerable family of four.

I looked through the front door window at what could only be described as charming young Charlie Manson. He smiled and asked me to step outside to talk with him. I answered that we’re already talking, what do you need? He insisted I step outside.

I looked left and right to see if anyone else lurked in the shadows. Then I asked again what he needed.

He said he was from next door and wanted to let me know he’s throwing a party and would like to give me his cell phone number in case I needed to complain about the noise to him.

“No worries. Have fun,” I replied and that was the end of that.

But then as we went back to trying to solve a murder, I grew suspicious. There was a family like ours on one side of us and a vacant house on the other. I looked at the vacant house and it was dark, silent and empty. I wondered if ole Charlie was casing random vacationers to scam in some way so I decided to call the police to see if any others had called about such a situation.

“No but we’re sending a patrol car over,” the dispatcher said.

“No-no, that’s unnecessary,” I said.

A police officer showed up anyway. I explained Charlie’s claim and then pointed at the dead house next door. The police officer investigated under our house. Beach houses were set up on stilt-like structures so storm surges could flow under them.


The cop left and not long after, my son saw Charlie coming back.

“Did you call cops on me?” He demanded.

“Nope, not me,” I lied through my teeth to settle him down. “But a policeman did stop to ask questions.”

“So you did call?”


He scratched his head and left.

Now we’re turning off lights and peeking out windows. Next door, lights came on, music cranked up, cars and people arrived and a party kicked off nearing Midnight and lasted until 4am. Then the place turned silent and dark again and some stragglers hauled away a bunch of trash bags leaving no clue behind.

The place stayed empty the rest of the week. Go figure.

Out on the beach the next day we befriended a group of families that were on the other side of the abandoned party house. They weren’t happy vacationers after Charlie’s party kept them awake until close to daybreak.

kite flying outer banks

We had another lazy day on the beach flying kites and Styrofoam airplanes, swimming up to our waists now. Night drifted in and me and the Missus popped a cork and sipped wine with our toes in the sand. Not a bug whatsoever, just a gentle breeze and rhythmic waves lapping the shore.

On day six we figured we better stop at Kitty Hawk to pay homage to our home state heroes, the Wright Brothers. I wondered why history referred to Kitty Hawk as the location of the first manned flight when it was actually in Kill Devil Hills. It turns out that what used to be Kitty Hawk was later broken up and although the land north remained Kitty Hawk, the Wright Brothers place in history was now called Kill Devil Hills.

kitty hawk wright brothers kill devil hills

Other than eating out, we spent time going to a couple of pawn shops. Our son had found a perfectly round, hard white object on the beach leaving us to fantasize that it could be a pearl. It wasn’t. It was perhaps a paintball pellet.

Another failed sunrise and we were headed south for a dolphin cruise. Boy did we get lucky! Or so the captain and crew kept telling us. We saw so many dolphins that after a couple of hours it was like ho-hum another one. The captain wished he had the power to more evenly distribute the sightings because he has had groups where one or none resulted.

We had seen the Bodie Lighthouse from a distance and decided to check it out. It proved to be a picturesque photo opp and then we headed back north. A big sand dune could be seen just up ahead but we underestimated it and nearly passed it up without much thought. It was a good thing we didn’t.

bodie lighthouse

Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head ended up being the most memorable site we visited. It happened to be the tallest active sand dune system in the eastern United States. The vastness of nothing but blue sky and sand everywhere you looked was mesmerizing. We walked and walked to the point we envisioned a mirage of a scene with C3PO and R2D2 in the original Star Wars. The endlessness of it swallowed the people there, visually. We were but a few ants spread across a hill of epic proportions. It’s so big that the brochure has to address what to do if you get lost. All in all, this was an incredibly unique experience now burned into our brains. The sand can get as hot as 125 degrees.

nags head sand dunes Jockey's Ridge State Park

After dinner and ice cream we returned to a beach where huge waves crashed ashore. We had fun playing in the waves even though one eye was peeled on the lookout for “Sharknado” cascading down on us.

On our last day, all of our problems were finally washed away. We had those deep bonding family moments and conversation, laughter, sun splashed memories in the making and even built a sandcastle.

Then, on our last morning, it happened. A burning ball of fire rose from the ocean as we said goodbye.

outer banks sunrise sunset

By Rocco Satullo, your tour guide to fun!

Enjoy more photos and brief video clips from
The Cutting Room Floor

dolphin tour nags head

fishing-pier-outer banks kill devil hills

wild horses of corolla outer banks







corolla wild horses outer banks north carolina

outer banks boradwalk

wooden fishing pier kill devil hills

wright brothers kitty hawk



Walking in Memphis


We came to See Elvis and MLK
but left remembering Nina

On our way to Memphis, we made a pit stop at Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park. It’s the world’s longest known cave system. It extends more than 400 miles.

It wasn’t much for stalactites and stalagmites – at least not on the tour we chose – but the enormity of the subterranean chambers is impressive. I’ll remember it most for two things. One is an awkward family photo at the entrance sign. The other is for a little prank I played inside the labyrinth.

The tour guide had us all take seats that were built into one rocky chamber. Then, he turned out the lights so we could experience pitch blackness and silence. I anticipated this and since an aisle divided my wife and daughter from my son and me, I quickly eyed up the three steps it would take to my right to reach my daughter.

When I clutched her shoulder in the darkness, I gritted my teeth hoping I had the right person. When I heard the squeal, I swiftly retraced my steps back to my seat. I felt around half expecting to sit in someone else’s lap. When the lights came on, I couldn’t help but laugh at seeing how displeased my daughter was when she realized that I had been the culprit.

Sometimes in this family, we laugh AT each other.


Our Memphis visit first took us to Elvis Presley’s mansion. Only it was a rather modest home all considered. Don’t get me wrong, the home was pretty large but the façade seemed modest upon approach. The brick fence wrapping along the sprawling wooded grounds with lush lawns was beautiful, especially knowing the surrounding area was an urban jungle. It made me wonder if the congestion outside those famed gates existed back when the King ruled.

Inside, the storied rooms of Graceland met every expectation. In fact, for me, it exceeded expectations. It was a wild journey from room-to-room. The colors. The styles. It was a time capsule of one of the most original – and yes gaudy – periods in American history. Yet it had such a charming, personable sense that made it feel like a home. People marveled at the Jungle Room but the Billiards Room with its walls and ceiling completely covered in fabric was where I wanted to linger the most. The out buildings served as a museum with an absolutely incredible display of Elvis’ records, stage costumes, you name it. The stories told were pretty cool too.


But some things seemed so humble for the king of rock and roll. For example, his pool seemed quite small. Lisa Marie’s metal swing set was no better than mine growing up. And mine was bought on a blue-collar budget. Other stops across the grounds made people realize how famous and rich the man was. His car collection is stunning. Oh, and you can board his private airplane too. I have visited the Air Force One airplane from the same era in Dayton, Ohio, and Elvis’ craft is comparable.

Visitors to Graceland cannot leave until they get a photo at the customized iron gates and the picturesque graffiti-filled brick wall at the foot of the long drive.


A short drive across town took us to Sun Studio where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and other legends first cut records. Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Studio, formerly Memphis Recording Service, opened the doors at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis in 1950.

The exterior of the two-story, brick, corner building exudes historical site. It isn’t a large place except for its reputation. Inside, it’s smaller still. But again, history looms large in every nook and cranny making it a big deal. But this run down place would be a quick walk-through – there really isn’t a whole lot to it at a glance – if it weren’t for Nina and the other tour guides.


We were treated to a show. Nina made Sun rise! Our group gathered in a back room that seemed untouched since Sam Phillips last walked out of his office. The wall hangings and cluttered desktop with all its 1950s relics scattered about seemed to create an energy in its stillness. I felt the chaos of running that studio all those years ago.

Nina’s sense for dramatics wasn’t wasted. From the moment she swung open a heavy old door to a window to the past, it was like an old juke box slowly powered up as we climbed the rickety, dark, tight staircase to the second floor where everything came alive. It was just one room with memorabilia behind glass but Nina pushed all the right buttons. Her enthusiasm was spot-on. Her set up of each story was seasoned just right. And then she delivered tidbits that you could only hear from the oral traditions and storytellers like Nina.

Sun had soul! And it Rock N Rolled.


Back downstairs, we entered the hallowed recording studio where Sam Phillips launched the legendary careers of so many music hall of famers.

Nina grasped an old 1950s microphone and floor stand, lowering and slowing her voice. She spoke into it even though it wasn’t on – but in our minds it was – to tell us the story of one night where the legends of Sun gathered – some under different record labels at the time – and had a blast singing songs together. This piece of time at this storybook place had The King, Man in Black and The Killer – to name a few – laugh and sing together in that room from that microphone bouncing sound waves off those deteriorating but original sound walls.

There’s a photograph on the wall capturing this little known moment one night in Memphis.

Then Nina invited each of us to hold that very microphone for our own moment and photo op.

From Sun’s high we went to a Memphis historical low – The Lorraine Motel.


This is an old nondescript two-story motel where the doors to the rooms are outside. But almost hidden from the frontal view is the large building built connecting to it. This housed the National Civil Rights Museum.

We wanted to pay homage to one of the true heroes of history – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As we walked up to the front of the motel, I noticed we were the only white people there at that time. I mentioned it out loud to my family to which my kids said they didn’t even notice and then chastised me for noticing. But I did notice. And I noticed that the same thing was true when we visited the MLK memorial in Washington D.C. a year earlier. Eventually, we saw other white people but it was rare. Why? I asked myself. With such a great man representing such a positive message I would expect to see many white people. I could understand why there would be more black people perhaps than white but there were virtually no white people at all. And there were a lot of people there.

Inside I fought back tears. I walked for a time behind a young black couple with the sweetest and cutest little girl. It was the flow of movement from one exhibit to another that kept us connected. The exhibits were gripping enough but what sent me pulling my shirt sleeve over my eyes was when the innocence of a little girl could not see color – just people – and asked, “Why is that man holding a sign that says ‘I AM A MAN.’ Of course he’s a man.” And at another exhibit, she innocently asked, “Why are some people being so mean to other people?”


As we wound through different areas – sitting with a replica of Rosa Parks inside a bus, participating at a sit in at a lunch counter, turning away from a fire prop showing the Freedom Bus ablaze – we neared the modest motel room of the original Lorraine Motel where MLK had stayed. The room was just as he left it, breakfast tray and all, a moment before tragedy struck on that balcony.

I stood still for so long, a gentleman working there did what he did to others before me. And that was to gently tug my sleeve to say time to move on for others to share in the experience.

Aside from cruising past Beale Street, the heart of Memphis blues, we craved one more uniquely Memphis staple – Memphis style Barbeque! And Central BBQ didn’t disappoint.

Neither did this town steeped in culture and icons.

By Rocco Satullo, your tour guide to fun!

MLK Last Breakfast Lorraine Hotel Memphis

MLK Last Breakfast Lorraine Hotel Memphis