Welcome to Washington

Vacation 2016 05_ Washington

After a couple of days in Williamsburg, we headed a few hours further north to our nation’s capital. We landed first in Gaithersburg, MD so we could attend Covenant Life Church. This was the former “mother church” of the ministry of the church I pastored in Greenville, SC. So much has changed in the past few years.

Covenant Life has a new pastor who is due to arrive soon. The church and the people have changed, or maybe I have changed quite a bit. It was good to be there. We met some nice folks and also got to chat with Mike Hawkins’ daughter and son-in-law. We ended up having a meal with them a few days later. That was really nice.

After the church meeting, we made our way to the heart of D.C. It was not that busy and the parking was free on Sunday. (I made sure by asking a police officer about the parking rules. They were kind.) We did a lot of walking. Took some pics in front of the White House, the Washington Monument, and then walked to the Lincoln Memorial. It was all fantastic.

The Washington Monument is the centerpiece where you can see in four directions, each direction revealing a landmark: the White House, the Capital Building, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial.

Walking to the Lincoln Memorial was a reminder of Forrest Gump and Martin Luther King’s speech, an interesting juxtaposition of memories.

There was something sobering and reflective about seeing all these places. I’m not sure what all that was about but it was surreal and reflective. Maybe it was the converging of reality about our freedom, current cultural strife, our slow progression into overt paganism, the fight for freedom, and the shrinking of our religious freedoms. My mind was flooded with all those thoughts.

It was also interesting to note the amount of disrespect the youngsters had around some of the monuments like the Vietnam Memorial. They were talkative, immature, joking around, and seemingly not sobered by what it all meant. At the Lincoln Memorial, there was a sign that read, “Quiet Please”.

Nice try.

Ironically, while touring the Freedom Tower in NYC and the two memorials placed where the Twin Towers were, the younger people were noticeably quieter. It was much different. I assumed it was because they either remembered that tragic day or they were one generation removed from that event.

It seemed as though WW1, WW2, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War were facts from the history books but not something that was connected to the young person’s life. Not so with the Towers. I suppose a few generations from now the kids running around the Freedom Tower will be similarly disrespectful.

It’s like us walking around a monument of an Indian or an Indian tragedy, not realizing the cost for the Indian. We’re disconnected from their story and don’t give enough thought or time to enter into it. I must say, it was disheartening to hear and see their disrespect. It was obvious to other people too.

I was talking to a guy from KY who was at the Korean War Monument, and he brought up the rudeness he was observing in the young people. This has more ramifications than I want to fully consider like these same youngsters will not care about my passion or reverence for Christ. It’s not their story or their cause, and when my time comes to be disrespected (persecuted), there will be no sympathy because the Christian country we used to be will be so far in the past that few people will consider it worth their time to care about.

Historic Williamsburg

Vacation 2016 04_ Williamsburg 01

OBX ranks as one of those places I’d like to hang for a summer. It goes into my North Tahoe and Jackson Hole collection of places I could live. I decided Jackson Hole, WY would be my summer home while Prescott, AZ would be my winter home. I guess OBX would be my vacation spot.

Quiet, laid back, off the beaten path, and great climate. It would be the last place we would visit like this until we got to Maine.

We left OBX and headed to Colonial Williamsburg, VA. The pace was about to pick up and the crowds were going to be larger. We drove a few miles to get off the island, which took us north to Virginia. I had forgotten about the NC gas tax so I stopped about a mile short of VA to fill up, thinking the gas would be cheaper in NC. It wasn’t.

We drove across the border, saw the gas prices in VA, and remembered my home state (NC) has more expensive gas. It was a brain cramp. I have been buying gas in SC for three decades before we travel to NC, knowing I don’t want to buy any in NC. And then I forgot. Oh well.

Entering VA where we did was nice. Lots of water, bridges, ocean and cool scenes to take in. We were only a few hours from Williamsburg, which was a plus because we could hang to the last minute on the OBX, leave, and still be at our destination before dark. A far cry from last year where we would get up early knowing we had a long drive ahead of us.

We found a hotel in Williamsburg, which was about 10 minutes from the colonial part. We found nearly all of our hotels on the fly, typically an hour or less out from our destination. With PriceLine, we could place a bid and get a good three star without hassle. Technology is a perk when vacationing. It does take some of the pre-trip planning away.

I drove the whole trip and Lucia was my research assistant. She was running things from her seat, which made us a good team. She would also look for things to do in the areas we were going, find out about the prices, etc. and then we’d talk about it after we arrived at our lodging place.

Williamsburg, VA was a slow, mid-size town. Where we stayed was quite pleasant. No homeless or other tourist hassles. It was residential and nice. With that said, I did not find a lot of “I really want to be here” feel about the place. I know, I know. It’s historic Williamsburg but I was not feeling it. I could not get into the vibe.

There were actors roaming the old town streets. There was a lot of history and all that but I was not wowed like I expected to be. I suppose if I lived in VA and was reared on VA history, then I would have enjoyed it more. It was not like DC history or Philly history or Boston history, all of which I enjoyed more. Even though VA history went over the top with making it retro, I was challenged to get my head into the game.

Colonial Williamsburg was a street of 1800 stuff. It was about ¾ of a mile that you could walk. You could see the glass blower, candle maker, black smith, and listen to the speechifying. We’ve seen those things many times at Biltmore, Asheville, NC, Dollywood, TN, or Silver Dollar City, MO.

There were homes, mansions, and shops where historic people lived and did business, but I felt disconnected from them. I enjoyed going to the other end of the street where the modern things were. There I could engage people and learn their “current” story.

The one exception was the older black lady I met who was an actor. I sat with her and talked black history and her black experience. Not her as an actor but her as a real person. That was my highlight. I asked her to sing some negro spirituals for me. She obliged, and oh, my soul. I could have listened to her for days.

It reminded me of the black dude who sang at our wedding. I asked him to sing Jesus Loves Me but not like a white guy. He obliged too. His rendition was from head to toe, body, and soul, not some white dude singing from the diaphragm. This lady had that. It was more soul than body. So good.

I videoed her. What she did made the top ten of the one million things we did this trip.

The kids seemed to enjoy Williamsburg, which made it great for me. Lucia liked it too because she likes to know how things are made. That made it great too. For me, it would have been better if I could go and just talk to the people. I had some opps to do that, but most of the time was tending to other things.

I have no interest in going back unless I go with Lucia and we are not moving from one thing to the next, but taking our time, soaking in the moment with no timetable. Having a full learning experience at these places is one of the things about these summer trips that we have not figured out yet.

I know it sounds like a long time to travel but because of the number of things to do and see, you’re more or less hopping from one lily pad to the next while not fully absorbing the moment. It gives you a broad and wide experience of America but not an in-depth one.

Next year may be different if we do it again. Less stops with more time at a location. No matter how you cut it, our country is big and there is too much to see.

Outer Banks (OBX)

Vacation 2016 03_ OBX

We left Chapel Hill mid-afternoon, which put us on the Outer Banks (OBX) before dark. North Carolina is a long state, east to west. From Chapel Hill to the OBX was still about three hours away. It was an interesting drive in that we crossed three bridges, each one taking us further out into the Atlantic Ocean.

As I was watching Google Maps, it was somewhat weird knowing we were pushing farther and farther from land. It seemed to be a vulnerable position being basically on an island in the Atlantic. It was also cool. The OBX are completely disconnected from the contiguous states. Only by bridges can you access them. You can drive north and south for quite a ways, where at some points you see the omnipresent ocean bordering both sides.

We stayed in Nags Head, which is the place of Kitty Hawk where the Wright Brothers did their experimenting with flight. There are a museum and grounds that you can go to. We did that, which took a day to take it in. There was not a lot there. We are traveling plodders; you may be able to do it quicker.

We also visited a lighthouse, though not the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, which is the most famous one. It was about 50 miles south of where we were, down the skinny island. I did not care to drive down there to see it and then drive back. We could enjoy the beach in the Nags Head area, and a smaller (shorter) lighthouse.

The beaches were different from other beaches we’ve been too. They were isolated, great waves, and clean. It was probably the remoteness of the area that was most appealing. It was a true getaway. Interestingly, being an NC boy, I have never been to the OBX though I’ve always wanted to.

This is one of the places I’d like to return. I think I could spend a month there, even though I’m not a beach boy. I don’t care a lot for the beach but this was a nice one. (The wifi was good too.)

The Wright Brothers museum was interesting and worth the time. It is part of the National Park Service, which is a plus. The Rangers both years of summer travel have been wonderfully helpful and pleasant to deal with. They were that way in Kitty Hawk.

One of the funnier moments was when a Park Ranger was giving a speech about the Wright Brothers, and he asked about the four animals someone took up in a hot air balloon. While he was talking, I Googled it, and then said a duck. He was impressed. I then said I Googled it and everyone laughed.

From that point forward he made several references to Google Man. I had picked up a new name. I’m Google Man. Later at the monument there was a group of folks taking a picture at the monument, maybe ten people lined up, side by side. I joined the group, and some of the folks in the group were humored by it.

The lady taking the picture did not see me. I stood there for a while and finally broke from the group. I asked the lady if she saw me. She said that she did not. She then said, “It’s Google man. You’re funny.” The name stuck. I was talking to the children about this and how it would be good to create a “Where’s Waldo” idea, by calling it Google Man. I would randomly show up in pictures around the country.

From that point forward I began photo bombing groups throughout the trip. (I was called out at the Jefferson Memorial by a teacher trying to herd her students for a pic. She was humored, though directive, let’s say.)

The other memorable thing about this part of the trip is that I ran the longest of the four distances that were laid out as the four distances the Wright Brothers were in flight. I was trying to run the distance quicker than their airplane that covered the same distance.

Haydn was able to do it. He was literally faster than an airplane. I was about 10 seconds slower than a airplane. Oh, well. Being almost as fast as an airplane was good enough.

We also went out to some dunes. In a way, it reminded me of what it would be like standing in a desert. They were providing hang-gliding lessons too. You pay $100 or something like that for a handful of lessons where you can run down a hill while tethered by two folks running with you down the hill. They don’t let go of the rope.

If you want to go to the next level, there is another charge. I’m not sure how many levels there are to be certified. To do that would require a lot of money and dedicated time. That would be a trip in itself.

Next stop Colonial Williamsburg.

Chapel Hill, home of the Heels

Vacation 2016 02_ First stop_ Chapel Hill, home of the Heels

Looking in the Dean Dome and hanging at the Old Well

Our first stop and overnight stay was Chapel Hill, NC. I wanted to do this for two reasons:

  1. Some of my best childhood memories were of UNC Tar Heel basketball, which is probably not saying a lot about the blessedness of my childhood.
  2. It split up our trip by keeping the distances between destinations short.

I wanted to play for Dean Smith (coach of the Tar Heels back in the day). I knew it would never happen and was okay with that, though it was escape-like to dream. Even going back to the campus a few years after his death and many years after caring about Tar Heel basketball, was still somewhat emotional.

It’s interesting at how things that happen to you as a child can linger to such an extent that as an older person memories of those things can bring back emotions. For example, I drove by Carmichael Auditorium where the Tar Heels played before building the Dean Dome. It was amazing at the flood of memories that place stirred up.

My family was clueless since they had no memory of the place. I don’t even think I mentioned why I was stopping at the facility. I got out and walked up to the building while my family occupied themselves in the van. The importance of the venue could not resonate with them. It was where my hopes and dreams were perpetuated or dashed, depending on the outcome of the game.

Interesting, Duke University still plays in their little gymnasium. Carolina basketball has never been the same since they moved to the Dean Dome.

We headed over to the Dean Dome, took a few pictures, and walked around the building. We peeked inside at a couple of spots. There was nobody there. Being that it was summer, everyone was somewhere else.

I drove around and around the campus. It was good to be there. I noticed on campus how the traffic lights stayed green (or red) for an inordinate length of time. I asked a lady at Panera, on Franklin Street, about this. She agreed that it was unusual though she did not know why they took so long to change. It just was.

We hung at Panera a bit, went up and down Franklin Street a few times, picked up our free coffee, and later made our way to the Outer Banks. We stayed at a hotel just a few miles from Chapel Hill.

(During the month of May Panera was giving away one free coffee (if you had the app) every day. We each picked up one per day, though the last day, which was the 31st of May, we were on the Outer Banks where they did not have a Panera Bread. We got 60 quarts of free coffee during the month of May. Thanks, Panera.)

While on campus, one of the must see “attractions” is the old well. It took a bit of navigating to find it but eventually we did. I parked in the Chancellor’s parking space since it was across the street from the Old Well. We took quite a few pictures.

While there, two older ladies came by looking to snap some shots of the well. We were hogging the area, though I did not realize we were taking too much time. Really. Then one of the ladies asked something about the fountain, which I thought she was talking about another place since where we were was the Old Well.

I told her that I did not know where the fountain was, to which she angrily replied that I was standing on it. Well, there is a fountain on the Old Well but I never connected the fountain and the “Well” as being the same thing. We had been on our vacation for two days and I’m already ticking someone off.

They went away mumbling, deciding to take a picture while I was standing at the Old Well. Lucia clued me into what was going on, and after I left the spot, the old ladies got their pictures.

Off to the Outer Banks (OBX)

There and back again

Vacation 2016_ There and back again

Picture from the Hawthrone hotel in Ohio where we were visiting the Creation Museum

On Monday, May 30 we began our second annual summer two-month road trip. We came back home at 12:30AM on Friday, July 22nd. We traveled 5700 miles, which was about 5000 miles less than our first annual road trip last year.

Like last year, it was a working vacation. I worked nearly every day, sometimes 12 hours a day, if not more. We did not do things every day, which is our normal custom when traveling, so this enabled me to work a normal weeks’ hours, though my work schedule was choppier than I prefer.

The journey began with our first stop in Chapel Hill, NC, which is about five hours from our home. One of the better things about this trip was that all our distances were two to three hours or less. We could get from spot to spot in the same day.

There were only a few times when that was not the case like our initial jaunt to Chapel Hill. The distance from Montreal to Niagara was another one of those distances. We went from Montreal to just south of Toronto and then made the Niagara trip the next day.

We did a similar thing on the last leg of our journey. We left Ohio and came home, which was a six-hour distance. This was a far cry from what we did last year. There were a few times where it took three days to get to our destination. Other times it took more than a day, which meant we had to layover somewhere. This year’s adventure was better that way, though my family travels well.

I told Lucia that doing the long trip out west last year and the shorter trip this year is much better than doing it the other way around. If we did short trips last year and then had twice as much distance this year, it may have been a bigger adjustment.

Even so, both trips cannot be adequately described or fully processed. They were amazing on all levels. It has been a mercy from the LORD for us to finish up our parenting of our children (still living with us) this way.

I cannot adequately express my gratitude to God for this mercy. I will post more about this year’s trip in the coming weeks.