..... we departed for what has come to be known as "Girls Gone Wild" break. I originally posted this description of our 7 days together in 2007 on my old Geocities webpage.
To celebrate Jane's 50th birthday, Nancy, Susan, and Amy made a pilgrimage to the east. Our intent was to enjoy each other's company and to create memories. We wanted the opportunity to share time together like we had during our growing up years. Circumstances kept Martha away this week, but she had the opportunity to spend the following week with Jane.
Saturday, March 17
Nancy, Susan, and Amy
departed Champaign-Urbana on schedule at 6 am CDT. Our first big
excitement was finding the "short cut" to I-70 in Indianapolis, and
with Susan’s fine navigational skills that was accomplished. Our next dilemma
occurred in Dayton when, due to talking and inattention, we realized we had
missed our exit to connect with US 35. Susan quickly realized something
was amiss, and we were soon connected to our desired route.
Lunch was at a Subway
(in honor of Dad) in Washington CH, Ohio. (Pronounced "ch" but it
means Court House.)
We stopped for gas
pretty soon after entering West Virginia, and were we in for a surprise. The
restrooms at this station were "backed up" and unusable. So we
proceeded across the highway to use the facilities at Hardees. These
restrooms, too, were challenging as there was no toilet paper. Nancy grabbed
a couple paper hand towels and made do while Susan requested a
restocking. We were delighted to say goodbye to "Sumdump" West
Virginia. We saluted Diana at the Poca exit and discussed whether Gandhi
was the mascot of the fighting "Poca Dots."
It snowed pretty much
throughout our passage through West Virginia, the kind of snow that is
sometimes described as "snow showers." Fortunately the pavement was
not slick although the car’s outside air temperature gauge registered in the
20's. Nancy thought the water running off the mountains creating icicles on the
rocks (stalactites, Susan said) looked interesting. Meanwhile, Amy studied for
her State Farm exam.
Jane had requested
that we phone her at 6 pm to give her advance warning to anticipate when to
expect us. She also advised that if we wanted any supper we better stop somewhere. With
that in mind we stopped in Lexington at a Burger King, again in honor of Dad –
it's Saturday, after all. Jane said we were about an hour and half away
and we did arrive at that time. Thirteen and one-half hours on the road.
We were warmly
greeted and assigned our sleeping quarters: Nancy in the guest room, Susan in
the cat-free-zoned Casita, and Amy in the spare room. We talked – of
course – then went down for the night.
Sunday, March 18
The Rotunda on The Lawn at the UVa campus
Jane and Rod worked
in the Kamp Store 8-11. We then met Philip and his girlfriend Leslie for
lunch at "Sticks Kebob Shop." It's an order-at-the-counter place
with southern Mediterranean cuisine, a healthy alternative to fast food, or so
it says on theirwebsite. (www.stickskebobshop.com) We enjoyed our
lunch with Philip and Leslie. Rod and Jane led the flatlanders to the UVa
campus, then split to run errands and head back to work. Nancy, Susan, and
Amy joined the Lawn/Rotunda tour. On the way back to our car, we stopped at
Philip's Starbucks even though he was not working.
Following the tour we
three stopped at the Food Lion to stock up on breakfast supplies for our DC
trip. We also gassed up the car and some guy flirted with Amy as she
washed the windshield.
Jane left ingredients
and a recipe for a fagioli-type soup which we had simmering with an enticing
aroma when Rod and Jane got off work at 7 pm.
soup for supper
Monday, March 19
Nancy, Jane, Susan,
and Amy planned to leave for our whirlwind DC tour by 8 am and we actually
departed early!!! Just a few miles from the KOA, on Route 20, a deer ran
across our path. It was the second deer that followed that could have
ended our plans.
We stopped for a
bathroom break on the outskirts of Fredericksburg – the same place Nancy, Jane,
and Patrick had stopped in 2001. However, this stop did not have the
desired outcome. Again, the restrooms were inoperational and we were
forced to prowl for another facility. We selected a Wawa, a Mid-Atlantic
gas/convenience store chain. (There's a whole other story, but it's a
"guess you had to be there" tale that loses its significance in the
We arrived in the
Washington area around 11 am, and Nancy got really excited at her first glimpse
of the Washington Monument off in the distance. We stayed at a Radisson in
Arlington and were fortunate to be allowed to checkin at that time.
We already had a
pretty good notion of how we were spending our day, so walked over to Crystal
City, a commercial complex with office and retail space plus a Metro
station. Lunch was at Potbelly Sandwich Works. It was interesting to note
all the military personnel, mostly in fatigues, in the Crystal City complex.
We then proceeded to
the Metro station. Susan was our expert, having used the subway on a
previous trip. The train crossed over the Potomac River, and we tourists
eagerly snapped pictures of the Washington and Jefferson monuments off in the
distance during the short time we were in daylight.
Exiting the Metro
station we headed towards the National Mall. It was a cold, windy day, but
the sun was shining and the sky was a gorgeous, cloudless blue. Our first
photo op was of the Capitol, way off in the distance. We did not walk down
there as we knew we'd get closer that evening while on a bus tour.
We then headed in the
opposite direction, towards the Lincoln Memorial. We walked and walked and
walked, stopping here and there to take more pictures. We detoured to the
Old Post Office in order to go up the tower and take in a panoramic Washington
view. We continued our walking (trudging) towards the White House. Unbeknownst
to us, "something" was occurring at the White House, and we were not
permitted anywhere near it.
So we traipsed on
down to the World War II Memorial. We did not go further to the Lincoln or
Jefferson Memorials since they were part of the evening bus tour.
Having done all this
walking, our next challenge was to get back to the Metro station so we could
get back to our hotel. We thought we'd earned a sit-down dinner, but in
the interest of time, settled on fast food at the Crystal City food court.
Our hotel was a
pickup site for the Gray Line bus tour. As we wound through the pickup
route, our driver made three trips to the restroom at the back of the
bus. After all of our recent email conversations about colonoscopies, Jane
decided he must have one scheduled the next day.
The evening bus tour
covered a lot of sites and was sure better than us trying to hoof it all over
the place. The monuments and buildings are very impressive lighted up
after dark, although decent photographs were not really possible. (But
there were plenty of people trying who will be plenty disappointed when all
they end up with will be their flash reflected off the bus windows.) Nancy
was thrilled to pass by the Library of Congress. We departed the bus at
various locations and were able to get up close for many minutes at several
sites. And it was interesting to hear the driver's explanation of
all. (Lucky for us, we were not on Mr. Colonoscopy's bus. Aside from
his plumbing problems, he did not speak very plainly …. think of a drive-up
window at a fast food joint.)
Following our tour it
was back to the hotel where some of us had fun playing with the "Sleep
Number" adjustments on the bed.
Tuesday, March 20
Any reports of
Nancy's snoring are vastly over-exaggerated. We brought our breakfast:
muffins, granola bars, yogurt, orange juice. You'd think that with the
exorbitant price of the hotel a breakfast would be included. We then went
to Arlington Cemetery.
Upon arrival we
looked with awe and dismay at the beautiful site. It is overwhelming to
see the rows of white headstones on the green lawns. And after the previous day
of walking, we were also a bit overwhelmed to see the uphill climbing we needed
We made our way to
the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier arriving for the 10 o'clock changing of the
guard. Expecting to see a highly precise ceremony, we were still impressed
with the details involved. One thing in particular that Nancy remembers is
that at the very close of the ceremony, the guard with his back to the sergeant
steps off at the exact moment the sergeant begins walking, even though they are
several yards from one another. Now that is precision.
changing of the guard, we were able to witness a wreath-laying ceremony by a
high school from Lexington, Nebraska. Susan and Nancy were in a position
to overhear the sergeant explain to the two girls what they needed to
do. They were at the top of the stairs and the sergeant was speaking in a
conversational tone welcoming the girls and putting them at ease. He then
slipped into his clipped, "this is the procedure" spiel. He gave
them a whole list of what was going to happen, what they should do, what he
would do, etc., and I'm sure the girls were beginning to think "wow, I
can't remember all of this." But it all ran with exact
precision. At the close of this ceremony, the sergeant accompanied the
girls back up the stairs and Nancy heard him say "Now go and enjoy your
loved ones." He then turned around and proceeded back down the stairs. There
were plenty of people around the stairs and he could be seen from his chest up
and looked as though he was riding down an escalator, that's how smooth his
We now took a
"short cut" through the cemetery to Arlington House. This was a
long concrete stairway down a slope, across the valley, then back up the other
side. It was the going up the other side that was "fun" …..
Arlington House is
undergoing a big renovation and there was nothing inside. There were
guides, but I guess we weren't really a part of any group, so we just
wandered. It will be a very interesting place to tour if the renovation is
Next stop was the
Eternal Flame at the JFK burial site. We thought we were on the
homestretch as we headed downhill, but once again we had to go up to get to the
That was the close of
our Arlington Cemetery tour. Our map did not prove to be exact enough to
exit Arlington without an inadvertent sidetrip into the District of
Columbia. That means we mistakenly crossed a bridge into DC, then immediately
turned around and exited.
We drove to Mount
Vernon along a very pretty route. Arriving there around noon we had to
decide if we wanted to spend time at a sit-down restaurant or speed things up
with a quick lunch at the food court. We decided on the latter and had
Pizza Hut single-size pizzas. After an introductory video with Pat Sajak,
we proceeded to the mansion – what a beautiful plantation on the
Potomac. The tour through the house was informative, and we were able to
go to the second floor, too. Following that, we headed down the path
toward George and Martha's burial site, but wisely abandoned that when we
realized that it would be a long uphill climb to return. We saw a lot of
commotion at a barn and it appeared as though a sheep had just given birth to
twins. ("Here comes another one" was overheard.)
We stopped in their
new Education Center and gave it a quick look. It is very much like the
one at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. Our whirlwind tour of DC
was over, and we proceeded to I-95 around 4:30 to join the hordes of commuters
bugging out. We could see the HOV lanes (High Occupancy Vehicle) and cars
whizzing by there, but we were unable to access an entrance to it. So we
barreled along the freeway at about 15 mph.
Once back in Fredericksburg
we decided we had finally earned a sit-down dinner. We scouted around and
finally settled on O'Charleys. We had a very friendly waitress who called
all of us sweetie – well, that is all of us except one. We enjoyed our
meal and as we were heading back to our route home, we saw a Krispy Kreme donut
shop. We just knew Rod would be thrilled with a donut so we stopped and
bought a dozen. It just so happened that the light was on in the window
that signaled customers could get a free donut, and without a word, we all
found ourselves munching a free donut. (Except Amy – but you'll have to
ask her about that.)
We still had an hour
and half drive ahead of us. We arrived back at the Kampground around 9
pm. Rod welcomed Jane home with a bouquet of red roses. Then much to
our surprise and elation, Nancy, Susan, and Amy all found a rose at their
bedsides artfully displayed on one of the Ramblin' Rose china saucers (Mom's
china). We're so glad we brought Rod some donuts.
Wednesday, March 21
Breakfast was Krispy
Kreme donuts, then Nancy, Susan, and Amy visited Montpelier, home of President
James Madison. Their new visitor center had just opened 4 days before, and
it's beautiful. The mansion is undergoing a major renovation with the aim
to return it to its 1820s appearance. Much of the outside work is complete
and the house has been restored to its original brick. The inside is
completely dismantled and the interior walls are laths. We sat in on an
informative presentation of the architectural history of the house. Our
tour guide Penn was wonderful, and we discovered he had been a naval
aviator. Later when we toured the Education Center we discovered that the
tour guide Mike was a retired submariner.
We headed back to
Charlottesville and stopped for a quick lunch at Wendy's. We shopped for
our "surprise" supper at Food Lion. Jane and Rod returned home
from work to the tantalizing aroma of goulash and garden salad. Plus we
had a delicious chocolate cake for dessert. Following dinner Rod
downloaded many of our DC photos and we viewed them while sipping Amaretto
Sours. Word to the wise: don't eat expired maraschino cherries. Later
that evening Tia watched her "Video Catnip" DVD and entertained us with
Thursday, March 22
It was a quiet
day. Around 12:30 all five of us went to the buffet lunch at Michie
Tavern. Jane had not yet been successful in persuading Rod to drive by
"the Shifflett's" place so she could take a picture and she knew
Nancy would, so one car detoured over yonder to accomplish the task. The
pictures were hurried and Jane thought for sure we'd be shot at.
At Michie T's we all
ate with moderation, so to speak, and ended up plenty full. We estimate
that only 10 pieces of chicken were consumed. (Compare that to 2001 when
Patrick alone ate 8 legs.) We putzed around during the afternoon then had
a light supper of popcorn. (Although Jane and Nancy finished off the tuna
salad that had been in the fridge for a while. We each had a fork and ate
it straight from the bowl.) We watched a newly acquired DVD, "The
Holiday," then called it a night.
Friday, March 23
Our intended departure
of 7 am was achieved and we bid farewell. With one more "cut 'er
deep, Sheila" we backed out of our space and headed through the mountains.
We ran into rain in
central Ohio and it was pretty steady until central Indiana. We arrived
back in C-U around 7 pm EDT, and we were thrilled to gain an hour.
All in all, it was an
exhausting yet hilariously fun week of sisterly foolishness and memories.