Stopping To Work

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I worked all day today, mostly at a picnic table.

LaKisa, that is my work table. Do you mind finding another place to perch?

Some of my clients feel the need to put their plans on the largest size paper they can possible use.  That usually is not a big problem because at home I have a big plan table.  When I’m working in the van, 24 x 36 is about as big as I can handle and 11 x 17 is best.  The job I am working on here is on 30 x 42 paper.  That is impossible in the van, hence the picnic table.  I don’t mind working at a picnic table, but if there is any wind it is difficult.  Did you ever try to turn a page on a large plan while the wind is blowing?  It’s like raising a sail.  So I resorted to lots of heavy objects to weigh down the plans and had to move them back and forth as I turned pages.  But I really can’t complain.  I am working and lots of people are not.

While I worked, Lucy did laundry and worked on her photo albums.  The sun was shining, it was not too hot, overall a good and productive day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I worked again today.  I should not have complained about the conditions yesterday.  Today it was cloudy and rainy and cold.  I still have to work with the large plans so I put out the awning and put the picnic table under it and put on my jacket and went to work.  The only consolation is that there was no wind.  It was not terrible, but I had to keep taking breaks to warm up my hands.  I can work in a jacket, my face is protected by hair, but it is impossible to work in gloves.  Anyway I finished the project and we will be leaving tomorrow for Philadelphia.  Wait, I just got an email asking me to do another job.  Okay, I will get the plans printed in Wilmington Delaware, the closest Fedex Office (Kinko’s) and we will find a place nearby to park for another couple of days while I work again.  I am confident that we will be able to visit Philadelphia soon.  If you know any of my clients, ask them to hold off a few days while we have some fun.  There I go again complaining about having work while many have none. Shame on me! It is 8:00pm here which means it is 5:00pm at home.  That is cocktail hour.  I am pleased.

LaKisha, get that disapproving look off your face. That amber liquid in the glass is my reward for working all day.




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Running Back To The Coast

Monday, April 16, 2012

In my last post I noted that Ohio seemed pretty flat. And it did seem flat as we drove north from Cincinnati toward Columbus.  We noticed a bit of a hill as we turned east and the park we stayed in was on a hill, but for the most part, the Ohio we had experienced thus far was relatively flat.  When we left our little hill today, we went down to the town of Zanesville, headed east and never saw another flat spot in Ohio or Pennsylvania.  It could have been Kentucky or West Virginia.    It was up and down constantly.  The only thing really different was that in West Virginia and Kentucky the trees were very green even at the higher elevations.  In Pennsylvania at the higher elevations the trees were mostly still bare. 

We try to avoid the freeways when we can so we headed across country on little county and state roads.  It was fun, but it would have taken us a week to get to Philadelphia at the rate we were going.  I scoured the map for some principal highway that would take us east but was not a freeway.  There do not appear to be any of those.  So we sighed in resignation and headed for I-70. We need not have worried about being on a freeway because as soon as we got to Pennsylvania, I-70 turned into I-76 and changed from a freeway to a pay-way.  We had to go through a toll plaza where we were given a ticket.  When we got off that highway about 200 miles later the bill was $30.50.  It was an interesting road.  Four times we went under a mountain through a tunnel.  In all we drove about 4 miles under the Appellation Mountains.  

We finally pulled into a KOA Campground about 45 miles west of Philadelphia.  Here we will stay at least 2 days, maybe 3 days until I finish another project.  After that we intend to see the sights in Philadelphia before heading on up the coast.

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Monday April 9, 2012

We arrived at Roger’s and Dee’s home last night and were shown the guest room where we would be sleeping for the next few nights.  Our plan was to see a few sights in Louisville, visit Maker’s Mark distillery in Loreto, perhaps visit Bardstown, visit with my brother and his family and head out again.  We figured three or four days.  Between my family and my clients, that turned into a week.

Today we visited and toured the famous Louisville Slugger factory in Louisville.  It was very interesting, but they did not allow photos in the plant.  The history was very interesting.  It seems they began making bats for MLB in 1884 and are still doing that more than 120 years later.  The first bats were made on a manual lathe and took about 30 minutes to make.  They are now made on a computerized automatic lathe and take roughly 30 seconds to make.  This link takes you to a short history of the company.

I don't what I said, but I know I shouldn't have said it.

Tonight we had what I would call a dining experience as opposed to just a meal.  Roger, Dee, Lucy and I went to a restaurant called Asiatique on Bardstown Rd in Louisville.  I am not going to write anymore about it here because I intend to write a food blog within the next few days and include it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Today, the four of us headed for a town south of Bardstown called Loreto.  It is the home of the Maker’s Mark distillery.  There are lots of distilleries in this area, but Maker’s Mark is unique amount them and produces a fine bourbon which happens to be the favorite of Lucy’s friend Barbara.  We promises Barbara that we would attempt to go to the distillery and bring her a bottle direct from the source.  And so we did.

You might wonder why Kentucky makes so much of the world’s bourbon.  Well it is the water.

Kentucky sits on a limestone and shale shelf over a massive underground lake.  The water from the natural springs fed by this lake is special. It flows through limestone, which makes it high in magnesium and calcium—minerals that also contribute to the magnificence of the state’s racehorses— and low in iron. These characteristics are good for fermentation and for the eventual flavor of the bourbon whiskey. And that is why the Maker’s Mark distillery is where it is.  It sits on the same property containing a natural lake fed by these very springs and is the source of the water used to make the bourbon.  The wheat and corn are grown within 100 miles of the distillery and the barley comes from Pennsylvania.  Maker’s Mark is aged only six years because the wheat used is called red wheat and breaks down too much if aged too long.  It also helps to give Maker’s Mark it’s unique flavor.  

Anyway we toured the entire facility and ended at a tasting room, where we tasted the three products produced here.  Regular Maker’s Mark, 90 proof, The new Maker’s 46, 94 proof, and clear, unpaged Maker’s Mark, 130 proof.  The clear one is not sold anywhere but the distillery.  I actually found it to have an interesting taste, not harsh like you would expect a 130 proof whiskey to be.  My favorite was the Maker’s 46.  One of the unique things about this bourbon is the signature red wax seal on every bottle.  Each bottle is still hand dipped in this red wax.  Lucy and I bought some bottles and were allowed to do the dipping ourselves.  

After this tour we headed back to Bardstown to have a meal at the Old Talbott Tavern.  This is a historical place of business that was established in 1779 and has been a tavern, restaurant and Inn ever since.  Abraham Lincoln and his parents, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Henry Clay, the inventor of steamboats John Fitch, environmentalist John James Audubon, songwriter Stephen Foster, and Jesse James, who is said to have been the cause of the bullet holes in the murals as he was drunk and shooting at imaginary butterflies, among other notables are on the list of guests who have stayed in the Inn and dined or drank in the tavern.  We had a very nice meal there, if unremarkable.  I had a bourbon with my meal and when I told him just to use the well bourbon, he told me that was Maker’s Mark.  I think the only standout part of my meal was the soup.  It was called a Kentucky Burgoo.  It turned out to be a chunky vegetable beef soup with a spicy, delicious broth.  Very enjoyable.

When we arrived back at the house, I checked my email and found that I had three jobs.  All of them were due by the beginning to mid next week.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I worked today while Lucy and Dee went out to do girl things. Manicures, pedicures, haircuts, and shopping.

Tonight we met with my brother Bob, his wife Ione, my niece Mikel and her husband Ed, my nephew Scott’s wife Tricia, Scott had to work.  Dee and Lucy and I were there, but Roger had to work. We met at a restaurant called Cheddar’s.  I had never heard of it but it seems to be a chain in these parts.  The food was very good, but the gathering was the highlight.  Lot’s of good conversation and catching up on old times.  Overall a very good night.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I worked again today while Lucy and Dee went shopping.  We had planned to take off today, but with 3 jobs to do and the assurance that we had not over stayed our welcome, we decided to stay until Saturday morning so I could work in comport.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I worked again today and finished one of the larger of the three jobs.

Tonight we had another, very different dining experience.  We went to a restaurant called Buca di Beppo.  It is a family style Italian restaurant.  The food was excellent and the atmosphere was fun.  I wanted spaghetti and meat balls and I can eat lots of spaghetti so I ignored the advice of both Dee and Roger to share the small serving. So Roger and I shared a large order.  The meat balls would have been better described as meat loaf and there were three of them along with a huge bowl of spaghetti with marinara sauce. Roger and I ate roughly half of it and were both stuffed.  It took two boxed to take home the left overs.  Roger and I will be having spaghetti and meat balls for dinner on Saturday night as well.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

We left Louisville today and headed for Zanesville, Ohio.  Zanesville happens to be the home of an RV park and it is close to a factory that makes baskets, which Lucy collects.  They are called Longaberger baskets.  One of Lucy’s baskets broke and we are going to get it repaired and to tour the factory.

Compared to West Virginia and Kentucky, Ohio is flat.  What we saw of it we saw through between the beats of our windshield wipers.  It rained for most of the drive today.

We arrived late to the park, set up and went to bed.  After a week in a bed in a house that did not move, it was an adjustment to get back to travel mode.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I worked again today, put the final touches on one job and completed another small job.  I have one more larger job to do, but I have until Thursday to finish it.  So we will be leaving here tomorrow headed for Philadelphia.  We will find a nice park there where I can work and we can spend some time seeing the historical sites.   

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Cumberland Falls

Saturday, April 7, 2012

We left West Virginia today heading for Kentucky.  We could have gone straight east to Louisville where my sister, Dee, and her husband, Roger, live.  My brother Bob, and his wife Ione also live near and we intended to have a visit before continuing the journey.  But we were not due to be there until Sunday or Monday, so we decided to see one sight in Kentucky.  I have always heard of a place called Cumberland Falls in south Kentucky.  So that is where we headed.  We crossed into Kentucky at Ashland and then turned south.  By the time we got near the falls it was about to get dark so we found a Walmart in Corbin, KY which welcomed us to spend the night.  Of course we also took this opportunity to show our gratitude by purchasing needed supplies.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Up this morning and off to see Cumberland Falls.  We drove about 20 miles east across a little mountain to a very nice falls.  This was a beautiful place. I think I will allow the photos to speak for themselves.  As we were planning this trip to the falls, we almost decided not to go.  We looked a photos of the place and it did not seem all that great.  I am very glad we decided to go.  These photos are the best we could do but they do not tell the story of the beauty and power of this place like a personal visit.  If you are in this part of the world and have the chance to visit.  i highly recommend it.

On the road to the falls

A bridge near the falls

Above the falls

View from observation deck above the falls

Path to the lower observation deck

Below the falls

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West Virginia

Monday, April 2, 2012

Well we got up this morning and headed west.  We drove out of Maryland, into Virginia, through Virginia and into West Virginia.  Maryland and eastern Virginia were about the same terrain, but as we neared West Virginia a strange phenomena began to occur.  The land seemed to get bumpy.  I mean big bumps and the road rose and fell with these big bumps.  It took us a while to realize we had witnessed this phenomena in the distant past.  These bumps were hills at first and then became mountains.  We had not experienced anything like this since we hit the Gulf Coast somewhere in south Texas.  We had driven all the way across south Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, around Florida’s peninsula, up the east coast of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland without seeing the merest hint of a hill, much less a mountain.

Today we learned why West Virginia is called ”The Mountain State”.  There do not appear to be any flat spots in West Virginia bigger than a Walmart parking lot.  We also learned a second thing about West Virginia.  For years I had been told that West Virginia had been ravaged by strip mining for coal.  It has been said that the mountains have been so stripped of nutrients and top soil that nothing will grow on them. I am here to tell you that it is not true.  If there are any ruined parts of this state, they are very good at hiding them.  And I was looking for them.  We did not cross the state on major interstate highways.  We took the smaller US and State highways.  I have to say that this is one of the most beautiful states I have ever had the good fortune to cross.

Nestled in the mountains about half way across the state is a small town called Moorefield.  Moorefield is host to a Walmart and that Walmart is host to Lucy and Harvey for tonight.

Behind this Walmart was another small area where there was a cinema and a bowling alley.  We decided to see a movie.  Now being Monday night in a small town in the mountains, there were few other people at the cinemas. They had 6 theaters and there could not have been more than 6 people in the place.  We grabbed a bag of popcorn and a box of Dots and headed for our seats.  When the movie started, counting Lucy and I, there were two people in the theater.  Now we are usually pretty neat eaters, but when they pile that popcorn up over the rim of the bucket, it’s hard not to drop some.  And we did.  Usually that is no big deal, because there are lots of other people around you so the cleanup people do not know who spilled all the popcorn.  Lucy pointed out the fact that this time they would know exactly who the culprits were.  So we resolved that as soon as the movie ended and the lights went up we would clean up our area before the cleaning people descended on the theater.  Well the end of the movie was pretty intense and we did not notice anyone entering the theater, but when the lights went up, there, standing at the end of our isle was the cleanup crew, broom and dustpan in hand, looking directly at the only two people in the theater sitting there in front of a huge mess of spilled popcorn.  Lucy tried to apologize and explain that we are not usually this messy.  They just laughed it off and said it was okay and they went about their duties sweeping up our mess.  We hung our heads and left the theater as quickly as possible.  We were comforted by the fact that we were just passing through and would probably never again see these people.  Back to van sweet home and to bed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

We thought we had seen some mountains yesterday.  It turns out those were just the appetizer.  Today we had the real mountains.  High mountains, narrow winding roads over high mountains.  We finally reached a point that they call the Eastern Continental Divide.  I had never heard of it, but it apparently exists in the Appellation mountains, just a few miles east of Elkins, West Virginia.  The scary part ended at Elkins, but not the mountains.  The road was better and four lanes, but the mountains continued all the way to Charleston and beyond.

Along the way we stopped in a small town called Buckhannon.  It was a very quaint old 1750’s town, not really different from many little old towns we passed through on this trip toward the midwest, but there was something peculiar about this town.  We stopped at DQ for a cone.  The DQ was downtown and was said to be the oldest fast food place in town.  Anyway, I was lucky enough to find a place to park on the street.  Now here is the peculiar thing.  As we sat there, the street  was bogged down with traffic.  It was moving fast enough, but it was bumper to bumper.  By the way, this was Tuesday, mid afternoon.  When we were ready to leave we had to wait a good ten minutes for a break in traffic big enough to dart out into the flow.  During the time we were parked there, I would be willing to bet that more vehicles passed by than there are people living in this town.  We drove the three blocks out to the end of the business district and the traffic seemed to dissipate until we got back to the highway and it was back to normal.  We looked around for signs of some special event, we looked online for some clue, nothing to be found.  It is still a mystery to me.  It was a beautiful, historical looking little town, but nothing special. Go figure.

My sister lives in a small town on the outskirts of Charleston, named St. Albans.  We arrived there this afternoon and were greeted by my sister Brenda, my niece, Carrie, and Carrie’s four son’s.  My sister has three daughters, Molly is the oldest, the afore mentioned Carrie in the middle, and the youngest, Maggy, whom you met in Charleston, South Carolina.  Between the three of them they have produced 12 grandchildren for Brenda.

We pulled in and parked the van in Brenda’s driveway.  We sat around and chatted the rest of the evening.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Very quiet day today.  Brenda had to work, so we took the day and caught up on a few chores and took a couple of naps and just had a day of rest.  I should mention that Brenda and Carrie have 2 dogs.  One is a little tiny dog (don’t remember the breed), old and a little cranky at times.  The other is a Lab and German Shepherd  mix and is about the same size as LaKisha.  Her name is Lilly.  LaKisha and Lilly played and romped together non stop all the time we were there.  They are going to miss each other.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Today we took off, Lucy and Brenda and I, to see a bridge that is locally famous.  It is about 120 miles south of Charleston on highway 19 and it crosses the New River Gorge.  It is the second highest bridge in North America at 876′ and it is the longest span of any arch type bridge in the USA.  I found it quite interesting.  The bridge was quite a sight, but the surrounding area was breathtaking.

Lots of good conversation on the trip there and back.

Brenda and all of her daughters are very good singers.  God was very generous when it came to the musical talent She bestowed on my family.  Unfortunately I was somehow skipped over. The only thing I do well musically is listen and I enjoy that very much.  I told you all of that to preface what comes next.  Brenda and her girls love Karaoke, so it was no surprise when someone suggested we go to Smiley’s bar for Karaoke night.  So we jumped into Brenda’s car and headed out. I should explain that I use the term ”jumped” only in the broadest sense of the word.  It has been many years since I have even considered trying to jump.  And in this case it would have been difficult under the best of circumstances.  First, I am 6’4” tall and weight more than I am willing to admit.  Second, Brenda’s car and I are about he same size.  It would have been just as easy for the car to jump into me than for me to jump into the car.  So everyone else jumped into the car while I folded myself in half and then in half again and sort of pried myself into the car.  When we got to Smiley’s I reversed the process and extracted myself from the car.  Then we learned that Smiley’s had discontinued it’s Thursday night Karaoke.  After some discussion we decided on another Karaoke bar and I began the folding process again.  At the second place, I again extracted myself from the can, I mean car, while the others looked on trying to hide the obvious fact that they were enjoying the show.  Thankfully, this place actually had Karaoke on Thursday night.  At first it was quite enjoyable.  Brenda and Molly each sang a few songs as Lucy and I and a few strangers looked on.  Then the place started getting a little crowded and very noisy.  It seems that many of these people were more interested in being heard than in listening to the singers.  The music was loud and the singing was loud and so these people had to screech even louder to be heard.  It was very annoying, so right after Brenda and Molly sang another song or two we left.  And I began the folding process in preparation for the ride home.  I did learn something in all of this: when it comes to little cars and large people, insertion is more difficult than extraction.  I think it’s like compressing a spring and then letting it loose.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Another day of rest and recuperation in preparation to continue the journey west again on Saturday.  We did go out tonight to a very good Mexican restaurant.

You may have noticed that the map shows us in Kentucky even though this post ends in West Virginia.  That is because I am behind in my posting and this post is actually coming from Kentucky.

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Washington DC

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I had been waiting for confirmation that I was awarded a job.  That confirmation came through this morning so we began looking for a place to set down for a few days.  We found a place in a town called College Park, just about 10 miles from downtown Washington DC.  I emailed the plans to a Fedex Office (Kinkos) in Annapolis MD.  When we got there the plans were ready so we headed west toward DC and College Park.  The entire day we drove about 80 miles.  Almost completely across Delaware, about 25 miles, then into Maryland and nearly to DC.  We did make a quick detour on our route to visit a small suburb called Landover MD. It was a quick stop and only a few miles out of our way, but we needed to make a small video for a friend.

The park is very nice, but a bit pricey.  But they have all the amenities necessary for me to work comfortably and efficiently.  They also have a little cafe and a laundry and store.  So we got all set up in a space very close to the restrooms and a short walk to the cafe, laundry and store.  We also made reservations for a 3 hour night tour of Washington DC for tomorrow night.  We have discovered that some of these bus or trolly tours are very convenient for us.  As you might imagine, it is not easy to find parking places with our van.  If the tour is short enough we can just leave LaKisha in the van with ventilation running.  If the tour is more than 4 or 5 hours, we will try to find a doggy day care for her.  You may remember Lucy took an all day trolly tour of Savannah, but I had to work so I was the doggy day care.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Today I worked, or at least I tried to work.  I began getting the job organized and setting up my computer forms and such.  As I began looking at the plans for my initial review, I noticed two things. One, the Fedex Office guy did not print 10 of the pages and they were important pages.  They were the structural engineering drawings. Two, there is a separate part of the job for which I did get the structural drawings, but the structural engineering plan did not not match the architectural plan.  I called the architect and he discovered that he had sent me an old version of the plans for that part of the project.  So I unhooked everything on the van and we headed back to the Fedex Office to get the plans they forgot and the plans the architect re-sent me.  That cost me half a day.  We got back and set up again about an hour and a half before we had to catch the bus for our 3 hour tour.  With the luck we are having today, we were praying that it did not turn out like Gilligan’s 3 hour tour.

This is the Treasury Department. It was too big to get it all in the photo.

We were supposed to be at the bus stop at 5:45pm to catch the bus that would take us to union station for the start of the tour at 7:00pm.  We were there at 5:35pm.  The bus arrived at 6:35pm.  Apparently he got hung up in traffic.  Someone had called the driver to see what the hold up was and his response was, “if you will send someone to move all the cars in front of me, I will be there in 5 minutes”.  The fact that it was quite cold waiting at that bus stop, was mitigated by the fact that we were just one of 3 couples there and enjoyed some good conversation.  We arrived at Union Station at 5 minutes before 7:00pm.  We were all set to jump off the bus and run to the tour bus, but it turned out the tour bus was the bus we were on.  Someone might have saved us quite a bit of stress by sharing that little tidbit of info from the get-go.

As we left the RV park we passed an IHOP restaurant on a corner a block or so from the gate.  The driver glanced at the six passengers and said. “Did you know that the IHOP restaurants were founded by a man with only one leg?” Had we known that this bus driver would also turn out to be our tour guide, we might have been concerned about the prospect of listening to this kind of one liners for the entire tour. As it turned out, he was very entertaining and very informative as well.

As we were pulling into our first stop, we saw Marine One arriving at the White House.  Someone commented that the president must be arriving home from Korea.  The guide told us that it may or may not be the president, but if it was we would not be getting very close to the White House because they would be sealing off the approaches.  Sure enough, as we walked toward it, the police arrived and blocked off our approach.  Dratt.  The only view we had of the White House was a glimpse through the trees and later a view of the back from the bus.  Next stop was the Jefferson Memorial.  A very impressive round, domed building with a bronze statue of TJ in the center.  Lucy and I went in through the ground floor entrance as that is where the restrooms are located.  If you are a man over 50 or are acquainted with one, you know that this is an important part of any tour. After this necessary stop we took the elevator up to the floor where the stature is standing.  As we turned to return to the bus we ran into a stampede of 12,357 teens.(I may have exaggerated that number slightly) We decided to go down the exterior stairs and walk around to the entry side.  We started down, but before we got to the ground level it appeared that the ground level walk did not go around the building.  We noticed that the level we were on appeared to go around and so we started walking. We walked the entire perimeter of the building with no way to get to the ground until we got to where we started.  It still did not appear we could get around by going down, so we went back up into the throngs of teenagers to go down the elevator.  We fought our way to the elevator and waited for a couple of minutes for it.  We were watching the time because we were supposed to be back to the bus in about 1 minute.  When we finally got onto the slowest elevator in DC it took us back to where we recognized our entry door.  As we emerged from the building we noticed that the ground level walk did indeed go all the way around and that the door we entered was about 10′ from the steps we stood on earlier.  So we sprinted(using the alternate definition of the word sprint, as two overweight 60+ people waddling quickly along the sidewalk) and arrived at the bus just as it was loading. We probably resembled two old flightless ducks fleeing a determined predator. Next we were taken to visit the Korean war memorial.  At night this was a very eerie sight.  Unlike the Vietnam memorial, it did not list names.  Instead, it showed grey faces on the onyx background of the wall.  Guarding the wall are several statues of soldiers carrying weapons in rain ponchos.  They were also grey and dimly lighted.  The entire experience was an eerily ghostly scene.  I tried to get a photo, but am afraid it does not do justice.  Next we entered Virginia across the river and visited the older part of Arlington cemetery and the Iwo Jima Marine memorial.  The part of the cemetery we saw was where the civil war veterans are buried, including many black soldiers in a separate area.  That was appropriate because our next stop was the MLK memorial.  It was a very impressive monument too.  The large stature, along with a mountain cut in half with a path through the middle.  On each side of the mountain were walls with famous quotes by MLK from his sermons and speeches.  Last stop was a combination of the Vietnam memorial and the Lincoln memorial.  The Lincoln was a very large building like the Jefferson, but rectangular and taller.  The statue was Lincoln sitting in a chair. I was familiar with it because there is a small replica in Kentucky where he was born.  The Vietnam memorial was quite moving for me, but not one that should be visited at night.  The wall is not lighted enough to see the names.  I was planning to look for the name of a friend, but it was impossible in the dark.  We did not specifically visit the Washington Monument, but there is almost no place we went that we could not see it.

The tour was fun and informative and when we returned home we were very tired. So our 3 hour tour took  from 5:45 to 11:30.  You do the math.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Not much to write about today.  Got up late, worked late.  Lucy did laundry.  We ate at the little cafe here at the park.  Went to bed.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Got a call this morning from Barack.  He had heard we missed seeing the White House on our tour and felt bad that he had messed it up.  To make up for it he invited us to Sunday dinner.  Unfortunately we had to decline.  I had to work.

April Fools!!!!

I actually did have to work.  I finished my project at about 2:30 today.  Lucy made a new friend and they went to Petco to get a special collar for LaKisha.  Lucy does not walk LaKisha nearly as much as she would like, simply because LaKisha constantly pulls on her and makes it very difficult.  Apparently this special collar helps with that problem.  Lucy tried it and it really works.  It is called a Gentle Leader.  It has a strap which goes around the dog’s nose.  It is very loose and comfortable, but when she pulls, it tightens down on her snout and it not comfortable.

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Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Where Are We?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
When you leave Virginia Beach heading north, you have some options.  You can cross the Chesapeake Bay and head up what they call the Eastern Shore or you can go a bit west and go through Richmond and north up the west side of the bay to Maryland and Washington DC and Baltimore.  We are very fond of the ocean and not crazy about large cities, so we crossed the bay.  I had heard of this bridge, but did not realize it was the one we would be crossing.  It was not the longest bridge we have crossed on this journey, but I have to say it is the most unique.  It is 17 1/2 miles long.  Now most bridges we have crossed which spanned major bodies of water would go flat for a while and then go high in two or three places to allow for large marine traffic.  This one twice became a tunnel and went below the bay to allow for that traffic.  It was very strange to be driving along on a bridge and suddenly find yourself going into a tunnel below the water.  I have been in tunnels below rivers and even the San Francisco Bay on BART, but they were only tunnels not combinations.  It was amazing.  I know that is an overused word, was amazing.  I would love to see a documentary movie or a book about the engineering and construction of this marvel of engineering.  I hope the photos give a sense of the feeling I had as we headed down into the bay from about 3 miles out.  Then to come back up for a few miles and plunge down again.  Near the north bank the bridge went high for a smaller traffic channel.  It ended on a tiny island and then another short bridge to the mainland.  I would have loved to turn around and do it again, but when I glanced over at Lucy she looked  like she had just been on a giant roller coaster ride.  Also the toll was $12 and well, once is probably enough (for now).  The remainder of the drive today was much like the previous days driving along this coast.  Lots of beaches, but not to be viewed from a moving vehicle.  It has turned off quite cold now so the one time we did find a boardwalk that allowed dogs, it was really too cold and windy to enjoy the walk.  We actually drove all the way up into Maryland and stayed at a very nice Walmart in Salisbury Maryland.  I kept wanting a hamburger steak with brown gravy, but I don’t know why.  Oh well…

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One of the reasons I am able to work and we are able to travel and stay at free camp sites is that we have very good batteries both for the coach and also the starting battery.  I have a small device called an inverter.  It changes  12 volt power into 120 volt power.  With it, I can run my computer even when we are not hooked to an exterior power source.  It has a built in safety feature which shuts it off if the battery gets too low.  So far that has not happened.  But what I
did happen was that the fuse protecting the 12 volt outlet burned out.   I know it was not because I pulled too much current because the inverter has a 20 amp fuse and the fuse that burned out was a 25 amp.  So if I pulled more than 20 amps the fuse on the inverter would have blown first.  So no big deal, the fuse just went bad and I can just replace it.  Easy right?  Well I found the offending fuse and it was indeed broken.  I went to the first auto parts store we passed to buy a fuse.  They did not have the correct fuse.  I went to another store with the same result.  The fuse is one of those new blade type and they are quite common, but this particular one is physically larger than the normal fuse.  After four auto parts stores I discovered something.  They all had fuses in this physical size, but none had it in a 25 amp.  I went to a dealer and they had never seen a fuse like it.  I really need for this outlet to work, so I began to reason it out.  I could put a 20 amp in and I should be safe.  My inverter has a 20 amp fuse so I’m sure it will not pull more than that.  I could put a 30 amp in and since the inverter has a 20 amp, it should break before any damage could be done.  I checked and found that this fuse is only for this one outlet and nothing else uses it.  So I bought a 20 and a 30.  I put in the 20 first just to feel safe.  If it blows I might try the 30.  So far it is working fine. Is my reasoning correct?

Anyway we finally got underway and headed back over to the coast to  head north along the shore of the Atlantic.  We stopped at a very nice restaurant for lunch called The Cottage Restaurant.  It is in a little town called Bethany Beach.  The food was very good.  We each had a seafood melt.  Lucy’s was crab on a toasted English muffin with Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese melted on it.  Mine was the same except it had crab and scallops and shrimp.  They were wonderful.  We also had a cup of cream of crab soup, also quite good. For desert (don’t tell my doctor) I had carrot cake. It was good but not the best I’ve had.  Lucy had something we had never heard of, pineapple cobbler.  I did not taste it but Lucy says it was excellent.  She says she would order it again.  In case you don’t know Lucy, that is as good as it gets.  She said she will try to duplicate when we get home.

About halfway through our meal the waitress came to check on us and I saw she was wearing a t-shirt with the name of the town on it in small lettering.  I did a second take and was surprised to see that it said Bethany Beach, Delaware. Not Maryland?  We had driven across a state line and didn’t know it.  We inquired and were told we were eight miles north of the Maryland border. After our meal we found a boardwalk and took a little jaunt along the beach.  It was windy but much warmer today so it was a pleasant walk.  It seems they allow dogs on the boardwalks in most of these towns until April 1st.  I guess that is when the tourist crowds begin to arrive.  We are just under the deadline so LaKisha was allowed to walk with us.  According to the waitress at The Cottage, Bethany Beach is rated as the best beach in the world.  It was indeed a very nice beach.  White sand and long and wide with a very nice wide boardwalk running the length of it.

Since we were in Delaware we headed for Dover because we heard they had a big casino there and we could stay the night for free in their parking lot.

Another very impressive bridge we happened across along the way.

It turns out they also have a free dump station.  If you ever do any dry camping, you know what a bonus that is.  It is called Dover Downs and it is a horse race track and casino and hotel combined.  A very large place.  We found the RV section and the dump station and we are set up for the night.  We went into the casino for a short time.  Lucy played some machines and I sat at a very distracting bar and wrote most of this blog post. The bar was distracting for two reasons; one, it was translucent and lighted from within and it kept changing colors.  I suppose if you were just there to drink it would be okay, but I never just drink.  I usually write or have a conversation.  This time I wrote.  The other distracting thing was the scantily clad nubile young female behind the bar.  I was forced to keep averting my gaze so that I could concentrate on my writing.  Another thing which made my time at the bar short was that the adult beverage I was consuming cost $7.50 each. Ouch.  I can buy a whole bottle for the cost of two of those drinks.  So we are back in the van.  Lucy is watching TV and sending me the photos for this blog as I write.

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Virginia Beach

Monday, March 26, 2012

This RV park is very nice as you will see from the photos.  It is off season for them so it is not crowded. It is called Holiday Travel Park.  They have lots of sites, maybe 900. Most of them are sand and grass, but they have a section of premium sites that have level concrete pads and very nice tables and a patio.  Our space is right on the end so there was no danger of a neighbor on one side, and as I said they are not full so we had no neighbor on either side.  Another great thing about it being off season is that this premium site cost about what a regular site will cost in season.

There are not nearly as many birds here for Lucy to photograph, so she went for the big game again.  There is a Naval Air Station nearby and military jets were coming and going all day.  Thankfully they did not fly at night.

We saw what we could of Virginia Beach, but the weather has turned off cooler and there was fog over the beach and the river. The cooler weather is nice for a change, but we were hoping for a less drastic change.  We went from 90 deg. and very humid in North Carolina one day, to 75 deg. and humid the next day, to thunderstorms in the night and now 55 deg. and forecasts of lower 40’s tonight.  I know I said in an earlier blog that we were looking for warmer weather, but upper 80’s and humid is more than we bargained for.  We prefer the 70’s and partly cloudy.  I guess we are just too hard to please.

The people around here are very serious about their fishing.

So we rested up today and I did our taxes.  LaKisha(Biscuit) was stationed on guard duty again keeping the squirrels at bay. We are ready to be on the road again.  We will be spending a few days exploring Virginia and then a side trip to West Virginia to see my sister Brenda and then Kentucky to see my other two siblings, Robert and Dee, and their families.  After that we will head back to Virginia and continue up the east coast.

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The Outer Banks

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I hope I did not build up too much interest in the outer banks.  There were a few nice parts but for the lion’s share of the trip it was much the same and as disappointing as most of our journey up this southern coast.  To be fair, if you have the desire to spend lots of time on a beach, this is a great place for it.  We like to spend short stints on the beach and longer  times driving along looking at the ocean. If you are like us, this is not the best place to be.

We got up early thinking we might have a pleasant morning walking on the beach and viewing the sea and the docks.  After I had my wash and got dressed, I went up to the driver’s seat to have my coffee.  It was a little muggy still so I thought I would open the window to get some fresh air.  That was a mistake.  As the window went down, the mosquitoes began to enter.  They had apparently been very patiently waiting there all night for a screen-less window to open.  I immediately closed the window, but not before several large hungry ones entered and went for any bare skin they could find.  It took me a few minutes to search out and kill all of the intruders.  I tried to do the killing in full view of those who were still swarming the windows, in hopes they would see what awaited them  should they follow their friends into this death trap. I know they could see me, but it seems to have had no effect.  Finally I was forced to start the engine and turn on the air to keep from suffocating.  So in effect these little vampires caused me to burn more fuel.  I wonder if they secretly work for the oil companies.  They finally left when the sun was fully above the horizon and a little breeze came up.

This first part of our days journey was a 2 1/2 hour ferry ride.  It was very enjoyable.  Sunny, but cool, relaxing.  We were in the sound, not in the open ocean so it was also a smooth ride.  At the end of that was a quaint little town with lots of restaurants and bed-&-breakfasts.  Then a 14 mile drive and another 40 minute ferry ride.  At the end of the second ferry ride was Cape Hatteras.  Another town with lots of restaurants and big houses. Lots of marinas with big yachts.  Interesting, but common place after hundreds of miles of it.  Where is the ocean?  The drive up the islands was about the same.  Long stretches of road with views of sandy and grassy land obscuring any possible view of the ocean.  There were a few bridges where you could sometimes see the ocean, but for the most part, you had to stop and climb a hill or a long set of stairs or ramps to glimpse the sea.

To top it off, the sun went away and was replaced by clouds and it rained the rest of the day.  Off the islands we drove through hard rain to a town called Elizabeth City and the open arms of yet another Walmart.  Thunderstorms through the night.  I actually enjoy thunderstorms.  I don’t know why. Perhaps for the same reason I enjoy watching rough seas crashing against rocks.  Something beautiful about wild untamed power.

Tomorrow we will be in Virginia.  We plan to spend some time in this history rich state.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Well we are now in Virginia.  Not much to say yet.  Really just a travel day.  It was rainy, often hard rain which made it a bit slow going.  We are in Virginia Beach at a very nice RV park.  We will stay here two or three days to rest up get a few chores done.  I think I will do our tax returns while we are here.  April 15th is fast approaching.  Because I am self employed, I never get a tax refund.  I always have to pay more in, so there is no incentive to get my returns done early.

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Gateway to the Outer Banks

Friday, March 23, 2012

I wrote very late last night to catch up on the blog, so I slept in this morning until about 10:00am which would have been unheard of a few weeks ago and is still rare, but becoming less rare as time goes by.  I have never been a lover of early mornings, but habit from working for 50+ years kind of acclimated my body and brain, like it or not.  What I like is to go to bed by midnight and get up about 8ish.  I typically wake up naturally after about 8 hours of sleep.

Anyway I will quit boring you with details of my sleeping habits.  We got a late start this morning and so decided not to try for the afternoon ferry to the outer banks.  The ferry landing is about a 3 or 4 hour drive and we did not want to rush.  So we made reservations for the 10am ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke, which is the southern end of what people here refer to as the outer banks. Unlike the other barrier islands we have been visiting along the way, Hatteras Island is up to 30 miles out from the mainland at some points.  Like the Florida Keys, these islands combine to make about a 120 mile drive.  Unlike the Keys, you don’t have to turn around and return the same way.  There is a bridge near the north end.  If you drive all the way to the north end, you do have to turn around and go back about 25 miles south to get to the bridge.

I will tell you more after we make the trip, but for today, it was a bit uneventful.  We did visit one little barrier island, but it was a a bit disappointing.    It is called Topsail Island and it is a narrow strip of land about 20 miles long.  The reason it was disappointing is that there were no views of the ocean.  The road just ran along between big condo buildings blocking the view on both sides of the island.  We made a complete circle and came back to where we started and continued to our destination of Cedar Island and the ferry landing.  The remainder of the trip was like much of the coast of north Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and now North Carolina.  Just miles and miles of marshes, punctuated by bridges over rivers and creeks.  I will say that some of the creeks here are as big as many of the rivers at home.  And some of the rivers are as wide as the Columbia with flood plains on both sides for miles.  There seems to be at least as much water as there is dry land.  Unlike the Columbia, these rivers are slow moving with low banks.  Cedar Island is known as the gateway to the outer banks

We arrived here at the ferry landing about 7:00pm.  The ferry departs at 10:00am.  So we are first in line.  We will sleep here tonight and be bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning long before anyone else arrives to begin boarding the ferry.  I can’t post this tonight because there is no service of any kind in terms of electronic communications.  I believe the mosquitoes have eaten the cell tower. We are sitting in the van watching them swarm around as we thank God for glass.  Have you ever seen the Hitchcock movie “The Birds”?  I think this is the sequel “The Mosquitoes”.   Another title might be “Tiny Vampires of the Low Country”.

I was stationed here briefly about 40 years ago.

I want to take a minute to thank all of you who are reading our little blog and especially those of you who take the time to comment from time to time.  It means a lot to us when friends and family let us know they are checking up on us.  We miss you all and it makes us feel at home in this vast nation with friends just an email away.

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