Sunday, November 26, 2006


Washington to Washington (and Virginia)

One week we flew to Washington State and the next week, we were flying to Washington DC. The retreat was actually in Staunton, VA, but tickets were much cheaper to fly to Dulles—so that’s what we did! BUT we got there around 4:30 pm, which means RUSH HOUR. We had to go on Hwy 28 from Dulles for about 10 miles and it took us close to an hour. We were stopped an awful lot of the time and crawling along at 5 mph part of the time. Even after we got on the interstate—it was moving pretty slow—we rejoiced when we got up to 20 mph. So it took us quite a while to get to Staunton, VA—even though it was only 120 miles.

When we got to Staunton—we could see our hotel from a distance. It was the Stonewall Jackson hotel and it’s on the registry of Historic Hotels. It’s wonderful—huge lobby with chandeliers and lots of fancy windows and trim. The rooms were interesting—the closet was a little hallway-like thing. You couldn’t even fit the suitcase in sideways—and when the suitcase was there—you couldn’t get to the clothes rod. But it was a neat room—high ceilings, and neat molding around the top of the walls. The hotel had a really nice conference center and restaurant.

Since we had part of a day to explore the historic downtown area, we walked around the area. The city of Staunton is a wonderful example of a great town, with lots of history and some great architecture from the late 1700’s. One of the historical facts that I read said that Staunton was fortunate because it missed a lot of the civil war battles that happened in the Shenandoah Valley. There are several colleges right near the Hotel and a few schools (both colleges and prep schools) that were specifically for women—even 200 years ago. There were many beautiful brick churches—practically on every corner.

Bob drove to Richmond on Friday to pick up Phylliss and they made it back just in time for supper, when the retreat started. According to my schedule, we were supposed to go until 10 pm, but they had changed it to end at 9:30 and had a reception at one of the advisor’s home. Ooops! Oh well, we went to her home a little late, but still had a wonderful time. She has a beautiful old home that has been restored. Every room, hallway, and nook was painted a different color—and bright colors at that. You would expect that to be really gaudy—but it wasn’t. The advisor’s husband repairs watches and clocks, and he had a wonderful collection of antique clocks. There was a huge one over the fireplace that was amazing.

After lunch on Saturday, we had PAM training and we drove over to Blue Ridge Community College to use their computer lab. The Fall colors were at their peak and it was a beautiful drive over there. Following the training, several advisors, Phylliss, and I attended the BRCC’s Induction Ceremony. It was very nice and a lot of fun to be a part of their induction. I’ve always loved Induction Ceremonies. Seeing the excitement as students are recognized for their academic accomplishments is so heartwarming.

That evening, we went to a really great Italian restaurant. Since there were 14 of us, we had made reservations. When we got there, they told us to go up the stairs and through the door and someone would take us to our table. After we climbed those stairs, they took us up another flight, and then another, and then another—we ended up on the fourth floor—but had a great view! They had wonderful pasta dishes that were really yummy!

Following dinner, we went to the Blackfriar’s Playhouse and saw a production of Othello. It was absolutely wonderful! The Blackfriar Playhouse is a recreation of the early theatre that Shakespeare used before he moved into the Globe Theatre. Rather than having regular theatre seating, this one has hard benches—although for an extra $5 you could rent a cushion to sit on and a back for the bench (we all did get that little extra)! Before the play began, the actors talked about how theatre was produced back in Shakespeare’s day. During the intermission, the actors played instruments and sang. They didn’t have any break at all.

After breakfast on Sunday, we brought Phylliss back to Richmond to catch her plane. As we were going over the Blue Ridge Mountains we could see into the Shenandoah Valley—the colors on the trees were absolutely spectacular and the view was wonderful. We decided to drive over to the coast and check out the ocean. So we drove to Virginia Beach, where we had to cross over some very large bridges and tunnels. It was really cool—there would be a bridge that was about 10 miles long and then it would go underwater and become a tunnel for several miles and then we would end up back on a bridge. We had two long bridges like that—I really like bridges and water! We needed to get to Washington DC by that evening, so we decided to drive up the eastern shore of Virginia.

Last summer we heard about the Delmarva Peninsula from the speaker at the Honors Institute. The Delmarva Peninsula is only about 100 miles long, but has parts of three states—Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. He said one year, Virginia even ‘forgot’ to include it on their state maps. So we wanted to see it for ourselves. Although as we drove up it—we couldn’t see the ocean very much. We did drive over to one island for supper. We ended up eating at a restaurant that looked out on a marina. As we went in—they asked if we wanted to be in the outdoor seating or inside—we decided to go to the outside seating—big mistake. We discovered they only had ‘bar’ food—complete with plastic silverware and glasses, greasy food, and noisy people watching a football game.

We headed up for Washington DC and ended up driving right through the middle of the city. We got lost several times, reread our map, and had to backtrack, but did OK. We ended up driving pretty close to the Capitol Building and Washington Monument. It was fun to be wandering around there—and since it was pretty late on a Sunday evening, there wasn’t too much traffic—although it was harder to see street signs. Finally we were heading toward Dulles airport and found a motel for the evening. The next morning, we boarded our plane and headed for home, but having enough time in Mpls to meet up with the boys and have supper with them—our favorite TGI Fridays!

I do like Washington DC and would like to spend some more time there—I’ve been there three times—two full weeks at Honors Institutes and one other time when we were traveling, but still feel like I haven’t seen it all. Guess I’ll have to do another trip….

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Visiting long lost cousins

Another trip to Washington State, this time we flew in and out of Seattle, but the retreat was in Moses Lake—which is half way across the state. And, we brought my mom along and planned a visit with my cousin and her family who we hadn’t seen in many years.

The trip started with Bob, mom and I driving to Mpls and staying at Richard and Ross’ for a couple nights. It works really slick when we go to the cities, because they have wireless internet, so I can work there just as if I was at home. Also since Richard is our computer tech guy—he’s able to work on our computers—which he did while we were there—HUGE thank you Richard.

I wanted to see “Singing in the Rain” at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, which had run over the summer and was about to close. We were able to get tickets for Wed. evening, so Mom, Ross, Richard, Bob and I went. We had a lot of fun, ate a lot of great food including desserts that we shared, and the production was really good. And, of course, for the next couple days I had the songs “Singing in the Rain” and “Good Morning, Good Morning” going through my head. A colleague of Ross’ was at the theatre with her family, so we got to meet her.

Going to the theatre did put us home late on Wed and we had to get up early on Thurs. to catch our plane, so we were a little tired. And, we had an unusual experience at the airport. They weren’t open! We got there a little before 5 am and none of the counters were open. Our flight was at 6 am—and they tell you to get there early, but I guess ‘not too early’. Even after we got checked in—there was only one security gate open—and that was at the opposite end of the building from where the ticket counter was. The others didn’t open until 5:30 am. But we had mom with us and had asked for a wheel chair, so they took us through the medical and employee security—and we did make the plane in plenty of time.

The flight was uneventful and we were able to nap a bit. After we got to Seattle, we found my cousin’s house and settled in. We had a nice visit and then went to a neat restaurant for supper. Since we had a short night, we went to bed early.

The next day, we left mom with my cousin, picked up Phyllis, and headed over to Moses Lake. It is so beautiful going through the mountains. Although the last time we did that trip, we took Hwy 2, which winds through the mountains more than the Interstate does. I think I’ve mentioned that I love mountains—so anytime we get to drive through the mountains—we usually take the slower route. This time we had another person riding with us and wanted to spend more time with the family.

Moses Lake is a neat town—it’s in Eastern Washington—so is located in the high desert. That means it’s usually hot and dry. Although there is a huge lake there—which is really pretty. The college is an old Military Base that they purchased for $1. We were on that campus a little over two years ago. They were doing some remodeling at that time—it looks really good now.

The retreat went very well—we had great food which was prepared and served by the college caterers. On the way home, we stopped for gas and there was this neat store and coffee shop (there’s a coffee shop on every corner and in every little town in Washington). The store had lots of wonderful Christmas decorations and lots of gourmet food—which was set out so you could taste. We bought some ornaments and Chai teas.

When we got back to my cousin’s house—three of her kids and their families were there. We had a nice visit with them. This is the first time we had met a couple of them and the others we met only at my uncle’s funeral. The family is really fun loving—lots of practical jokes and smart remarks. It is wonderful to realize that we are related to such neat people.

The next day, we went to a McDonalds for a birthday party for one of the little girls. All four of my cousin’s kids were there, as well as their families and some friends—so there were about 8 little kids and 12 adults. I sure wish there had been restaurants with the neat play areas back when I was a kid—or even when my kids were young. They look like so much fun.

After the birthday party, we drove over to the sound and hopped on a ferry and went out to one of the islands. It was windy and cool on the ferry, but fun to be out on the water and see the islands. Seattle has the most elaborate ferry system in the world. We had lunch at a seaside restaurant which overlooked a marina. We had some great seafood! When we were going back to Seattle—it was just getting dark—so the lights from the city were coming on—really beautiful!

We were on the red eye back—so our flight left just after midnight and we got back to Msp at 6 am. I think we all slept pretty good on the flight, but we were still really tired when we got back. Ross picked us up at the airport and we went out for breakfast. Then he dropped us off at his place, he went to work, and we went to bed for naps. When we got up, we drove home. Another great trip! Have I mentioned lately that I love to travel?

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