Friday, March 17, 2017

10 Years Ago Today

..... 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 their website. ( 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 retelling.)

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 to do. 

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.

Following the 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 gait was.
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" ….. Not!!

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 ever completed.

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 JFK site.

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 her reactions. 

Thursday, March 22 

"the Shifflett's"
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. 

Happy 50th Birthday, Jane!

at Michie Tavern

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