Every now and then, I import one of these “Our Big Trip” posts over from the site we used as our traveling diary while we were on Our Big Trip. Today is a now and then day.
The background info about Our Big Trip is here.
Sunday, October 19:
Beth went to Ellicott City, and I got on my bicycle and went for a long ride. There is an extensive system of biking/walking trails all throughout Columbia, where Bill and Katie live. I saw a fox on one of them. It was a really beautiful day to ride. One of the things I miss about living in San Francisco is the seasons, and I think I miss Fall the most. It was sunny but a little cool, and the leaves were changing. Picturesque indeed. Afterwards, Bill and Katie put us to work. First, Katie and I scooped up roughly 6 tons of used cat litter that the previous owner of their house (they only moved in a couple of months ago) had dumped in the backyard. Then we aided in The Great Dog Fence Project (TGDFP). Thunder (Chocolate Lab) and Jack (Black Lab) are thus far reduced to going outside only if leashed, and TGDFP seeks to remedy this. TGDFP consists of putting an invisible electric fence around the perimeter of the yard. As you can see from this picture, the pair of them are terrors and sure to be security threats.
Since the backyard is thick with trees, leaves, undergrowth and cat litter (though not as much as there used to be), burying the wire (as is the norm) would be a huge pain in the neck. So, TGDFP consists of slitting plastic tubing and stuffing the electrical wire inside. So, we slitted and stuffed and visited out on the back porch until it got dark. Katie asked if I was going to put on the website that we got to the Hester home and spent our first day there doing manual labor. I assured her I would never be so crass as to do a thing like that. We then had pizza and beverages and watched “The In-Laws.” I must say, the pizza was REALLY good. Now, as not to offend, I would have to categorize this as medium-crust. New Haven was thin crust, Chicago was deep-dish, and this was in between.
Monday, October 20:
Today we drove into Washington, D.C. We wanted to hit some of the museums there. We went to The Holocaust Museum first, because they have a ticketing policy where you get a ticket which gives you a time to come back for admission. The ticketing machine was broken, however, so we just went in. Bill had said that the museum “kicks your (butt),” so we were almost apprehensive going in. I was really angry at a number of countries and politicians coming out, and was afraid of some of the similarities in today’s world and 1930’s Germany, and I sort of want to go on a bit of a tirade, but I won’t. Before you go in, you pick a “passport” belonging to an individual of your sex. This document contains information about the person: marital status, any children they had, their career, hobbies and interests, as collected by documentation and interviews. It then lists where they were killed. You read this during the dark elevator ride to the lower floor (where the tour begins) to set the mood. The museum itself is sparse and dark, and the walls are cold and gray. The more I found out about the Nazi’s rise to power and Hitler, the more deeply my stomach sank. The Jews weren’t the only (or the first) people who were first expelled, then imprisoned, and finally killed. Gay people, physically handicapped people, alcoholics, people who had had relations with Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, the mentally retarded, people who criticized the government and people who had ANY Jewish ancestry, even if they were not practicing, were rounded up. Beth and I realized that we would both have been interred. Then I started looking around at the other museum patrons and wondering who would have been imprisoned or killed if the Nazis were in charge today. The photos and displays made me feel physically ill a couple of times, and the lack of action by so many who could have moved to prevent The Holocaust made me angry.
As I reread what I have written, I realize that there is no way to describe the museum with words or pictures. I suggest you all go there if you are in D.C. After that experience, Beth and I were emotionally wiped out. We just walked around for a while. We went to the Washington Monument, The Lincoln Monument, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and The White House. I must say that D.C. is a complete mess. Some of the mess was, no doubt, due to new security measures, but some was anonymous construction. Anonymous construction means that there were huge piles of construction materials and holes in the ground,
but no indication of what was being erected/demolished/refurbished. In addition, the reflecting pool was at low tide, apparently, and Beth and I were fortunate enough to get there before the tide ran out completely and reflect a bit.
I would like you to notice in this picture that, while it may appear as though your humble narrator has gained a few pounds on this trip, it was actually a trick of the light reflecting off the almost-empty reflecting pool at sunset. Seriously. Plus, being so near the Air and Space Museum, the area is affected by strange gravitational forces which distort light waves and cause strange things to happen to pictures taken in the area. Really. We then made for the Old Ebbitt Grill, which was established in 1856, and is the oldest tavern in Washington. Many of our country’s forefathers had eaten there, which leads me to believe that our country’s forefathers were taste-bud deficient, because, while the service was great, the food was not as delectable as the throng waiting for a table would lead one to believe. Maybe it was their wooden teeth.
Tuesday, October 21:
Back to Washington we went, for a more light-hearted day. Our first stop was the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and its collection of dinosaurs. Lots of fun. While I was dino-specting, Beth wandered off to the rock and gem area and saw The Hope Diamond. She reported that the diamond is not nearly as big as one might expect. She thought it might be as big as a golf ball, and that it would be on display unmounted - just standing on a platform. Instead, it is actually part of a necklace, and it is roughly the size of a quarter (AND… it is BLUE. Who knew?) We then visited the insect zoo, and your humble narrator, always the risk-taking adventurer, participated first-hand. Yes, dear readers, I actually held a fully grown 4-inch long Hissing Cockroach in my very hand. I knew it was a cockroach, and it was 8-inches long, but I didn’t understand it’s full species name. So when a woman next to me, who was watching me in my life-and-death struggle with this 12-inch creature, said “It might HISS at you,” I thought she was saying it might do something else at me, and who wants a 24-inch cockroach doing THAT at them? Anyway, I survived my encounter, and after we wrestled the 36-inch beast back into its cage, we watched Sophie (I think that was her name) the Tarantula eat a grasshopper. This, of course, made us hungry, so we went outside to The Mall (as the cluster of museums and monuments in DC is called) and ate our turkey sandwiches courtesy of Bill and Katie. I was able to eat mine in peace, but a pesky bee kept Beth on the run. We then made our way to The Air and Space Museum. I enjoyed the historic airplanes from WW I especially. Beth enjoyed- well, let me explain. Beth is a daredevil sort of person, who enjoys roller coasters and such. Your humble narrator enjoys more mild-mannered pursuits, such as holding Beth’s purse while she is riding roller coasters. Armed with this background information, you are now ready to proceed. One of the exhibits at The Air and Space Museum is an interactive flight simulator. This is a flight simulator similar to those sold over the counter as home computer software. The A&S Museum model, however, has a twist. To participate, you are enclosed in a shell the size of a VW Beetle. You are strapped into a chair and the top is lowered to entomb you. The simulator then starts, and as you pilot the “plane,” the cockpit thingy moves to mimic the motion of your plane. I knew that Beth would want to pilot the plane, so I let her take the controls. I was then the gunner, and was in charge of shooting all of the enemy planes that we encountered. Now, Beth is a great driver, and she, as already mentioned, loves these sorts of gizmos. She is not, however, a video game player, which would have benefitted her greatly. I think we were actually upside-down for more of the time than we were rightside-up. Beth then found out how to “roll,” or make the contraption turn to the right continuously. After about a thousand side-to-side loops, we experimented with suicide dives, frontwards loops, backwards loops and even figure eights. By the time the ride was over, your humble narrator was clammy. I had to sit down and wait to stop feeling nauseous for a few minutes afterward. Number of enemy planes I shot down- zero. We then headed back to Bill and Katie’s, where Bill grilled us up some terrific salmon and we chatted until bedtime.
Wednesday, October 22:
Today we took one of our days off and just relaxed while Bill and Katie were at work. These days are important to recharge the batteries and learn fascinating facts. Today we learned many facts about home alarm systems. One of these facts is that they are LOUD. How did we glean this valuable tidbit of trivia? Well, it was like this: there was silence, then there was a shrill, piercing noise that precluded anything but listening to the noise. Using my incredible powers of deduction, I reasoned that this must be the alarm. Taking a look at the alarm, I confirmed that fact, since the system was putting on a light display that would make Pink Floyd jealous, prominently featuring an ominous warning. After glancing around the house to be sure that the house was not, in fact, on fire, I set about quickly running from the alarm to the bathroom where Beth was showering and back. This accomplished nothing, but it did keep me busy until the phone rang. Those of you who have alarm systems will know that the caller was the alarm company itself, and that they demanded of me the password for the alarm system. This I did not have. So, with the phone in my hand, I ran through the deafening house until I found Beth’s cell phone, while telling the representative on the phone that this was what I was doing. I found it and stepped outside to call Bill. While I was on the phone with him getting the pertinent information to turn the alarm off, I accidently hung up on the alarm company. Armed with the access code, I turned the alarm off. The silence was quite enjoyable until it ended with another alarm, which I quickly silenced. Not quickly enough, however.
First, a word about Katie. Katie is a sweetheart who is concerned with animals and, as Bill says, “saving the world,” and has even taken up environmental protection as her career. She is kind and caring and giving. So, when the alarm company called her, she must have been, well, alarmed. She then called the house, and our conversation went:
KATIE: Hi Karl, it’s Katie.
KARL: Hey, Katie, what’s up?
KATIE: Nothin’. Soooooo……. is our house on fire?
After I explained to her that the house was not, in fact, on fire, I assume her heart began beating again and I went back to playing my guitar. Bill and Katie then came home and Bill grilled for us the steak that Katie had been marinating for 48 hours. MMMMM. I am glad to report that, other than the barbeque used to cook our dinner, the house remained refreshingly flame-free for the rest of the evening.
Thursday, October 23:
After waking up to a still-not burning house, we drove to the capital of Maryland, Annapolis. There we met my Uncle Larry and Aunt Dorette (Dorette is my dad’s sister), and they bought us a yummy lunch at Phillips or Phillips’ or Phillip’s, I’m not sure which, right on the pier. Not RIGHT on the pier. Obviously, we were in a restaurant. The restaurant was on the pier. It was great to catch up with them and hear some interesting stories about my father. We then wandered around Annapolis for a while, browsing and just generally chilling out. After that, we headed back to our hosts’ place for some delectible chicken stir-fry ala Katie. Bill and I then waxed political until Beth got so bored she fell asleep.
Friday, October 24
We finally bid adieu to The Hesters, Jack,Thunder, Bill and Katie. This time we took off North on Rte 29 toward Baltimore. Our stop today was The Baltimore Aquarium, regarded as one of the finest on the east coast. I must say that parking was a little bit of a challenge, but we finally figured it out. We don’t fit in anything with less than 6′8″ of clearance, so that narrows our options quite a bit. There has only been one time thus far that we have forgotten about our excessive height and had to slam on the brakes while cutting across a busy city street while aiming for a too-small garage. We didn’t make a lot of friends that day. But I digress. We parked and toured the aquarium. A great place, indeed. I especially liked the seahorse exhibit. There is a traveling exhibit of seahorses that is touring to raise awareness of how cool seahorses are and how overfished they are as well. That would explain the seahorse roadies we saw outside the aquarium leaning on crates labeled “Seahorse Tour 2003″ and smoking cigarettes. Anyway, don’t buy powdered seahorse. There were many cool exhibits there, including some sizeable sharks, Nemo, poisonous Stonefishes and an electric eel. After spending a while in the aquarium modeling the latest aquatic fashions,
we ate at The M&S Grill right next door. Pretty good grub. We then headed back down toward Laurel, where my Aunt Gail and Uncle Tom live. We hooked up with Gail and went back to her place, where we, her friend Michelle, Michelle’s sons Matthew and Michael, another friend named Debbie and Tom all ate Chinese food and birthday cake and visited until late.
Saturday, October 25:
Today we made for Beth’s Aunt Gayle (not to be confused with mine) and Uncle Dick’s house in Pikesville, MD. We got a bit of a late start, which caused a bit of grouchiness between us. I prize punctuality above many other things, and Beth prizes the mellowness of her friends and family, who will understand if we are late. Gayle had recently had surgery on her jaw and was not supposed to be talking. However, she is perhaps the most extroverted person in the universe, so for her, not talking presents a formidable challenge. She, probably more than anyone else I know, LOVES finding out what is happening with people she knows. She loves sitting and talking. Imagine if Jimi Hendrix had no guitar or Julia Childs had no oven. That’s what we’re talking about here. So a lot of our time with them consisted of Gayle talking too much and Dick throwing his hands up in frustration becuase Gayle wouldn’t stop talking like he was asking her to, and gloomily predicting she would be in pain later as a result. They took us to eat at Panera, where Gayle watched us eat, and then they took us to the site of their new house, which they hope to have done in a month or so. It’s gonna be a great pad. They were sure to point out to us the comfy and roomy guest area. When we were back at their apartment, Beth’s cousin Heidi stopped by with her two sons, Brandon and Andrew. We had a great time catching up. We then left for Alexandria, VA for a dinner appointment with Laura and Ted Ladd at the home of one of their friends, Meg Thomas. Unfortunately, Beth had supposed that this would be an easy half hour drive. It was not. So, we were late again. This episode brought another one of our differences into the limelight. We missed our exit, and Beth decided she could probably find our way to Meg’s via a different route. While generally mild-mannered, when on a schedule, I come from the follow directions school of thought, and I hate it when we start trying to navigate our own way through uncharted territory. But Beth was navigating, and I was driving, so I let her navigate. After a couple of phone calls to Meg, we did finally find our way, but it was close to a two hour ordeal. Fortunately, upon arrival, we were greeted by warm company and cold soda. Laura was running in the Marine Corps Marathon the following day, and we had a good time talking about running, as well as, for a change of pace, Einstein’s space-time theories. After bidding them all an early good night, so as Laura could be well-rested, we headed back to Gail and Tom’s. Our ride home was much more pleasant than our ride there. When we got back to the house, however, I wanted to be sure that we knew exactly how to get to the train station the next day for the marathon, and Beth thought the general idea we had was enough information to go on. So we went to bed grouchy again.
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode, where we will answer the following questions:
Will Karl and Beth make up?
Will they get to the marathon in time?
Will Karl ever figure out how to use the digital camera in low-light so that the pictures don’t come out all grainy?
Will “Our Big Trip” end in chaos and divorce?
Does anyone have a sofa Karl can sleep on if it does?
The answers to these questions, and so much more, can be found in the Week 20 update, due out whenever we get around to doing it. (ED NOTE: At The Frog Bog it will be called “The Part 15 Update,” but it will still come out whenever I get around to it.)
COMING NEXT WEEK: A marathon, Shenandoah National Park, The Blue Ridge Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
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