Over the last two weeks, my son and I traveled across the United States visiting my daughter in the Washington DC area, my sister in Indiana, and then trained it home to Laguna Hills, California. I want to share the highlights with you. I hope you enjoy the journey!
My daughter actually lives in a condo in Fulton, Maryland, about an hour (depending upon traffic) outside of DC. We used this as a central point to visit her alma mater the United States Naval Academy, take a tour of the White House and the Capitol Building, have lunch at the incomparably-beautiful Trump Tower, and drive around Virginia house hunting. Here are my thoughts:
- I carry a small water bottle in my purse to take my RA and AS pills (and migraine pill when needed) but security always takes it from me. This time, I carried the empty bottle and filled it on the opposite side. Brilliant me! I can’t believe it took about ten plane trips to figure that one out.
- What can I say about a plane ride that hasn’t already been said? The seats are too close, the food is non-existent, and the service is efficient but rote. Since we didn’t choose to eat airplane food, Sean and I read and talked. One of our conversations was about ‘feral cows’. I contended that most domesticated animals have feral versions (wild dogs, feral cats, wild horses) but not cows. They can’t survive on their own. My son disagreed but could provide no evidence. This came out of a post at Karen Hume’s blog about curiosity I know my extreme curiosity makes me a bit odd. I get intrigued by lots of stuff and often tangential to anything going on. My kids are used to me.
- Since California no longer gives away plastic bags with groceries, I will have to buy my trash bags and dog poop bags when I run out of my inventory. As a result, my daughter collects them for me in Maryland that doesn’t have this law and I take them home. I did so this time but most of the bags I stuffed into corners of my luggage were taken by my sister (in Marion Indiana). Bags are free in Maryland but sister can’t get enough for the daily cat boxes for her six cats.
- About those plastic bags–my daughter got a bit angry with me when I wouldn’t take a suitcase-full of them. I would have had to pay to check the luggage but the illogic of that didn’t sway her. Try saying no to a LT CMDR in the Navy. She is intimidating!
- During our visit to the Naval Academy, we joined a tour of John Paul Jones’ crypt which is located on the Yard. I forgot he was a Rear Admiral in the Russian Navy.
- The White House tour was well worth the time and security (including a drug-sniffing dog). It was self-paced so we could take as long or short as we wanted.
- The only other tour we could fit in was the Capitol Building. An interesting factoid: George Washington was supposed to be in the crypt under the dome but his estate won’t give up his body so the crypt is empty.
- We received a warm welcome at both the White House (top picture–see the image in the right-hand window? That’s my tech ed profile) and the Capitol Building (Ask a Tech Teacher is my tech ed blog and Structured Learning is my collaborative publisher–for nonfiction). I grabbed these photos of the greeting:
OK, I Photoshopped them. Sigh. But I felt the warmth of their greeting.
Marion is my sister Tina’s long-time home, acres of rural land in the heart of America’s Midwest (in spirit if not geographically). She owns a sprawling home that is the center of activity for her just-as-sprawling family, a large garden, a forest, beehives, chickens, big spiders, mosquitos, and a whole lot more. I haven’t seen her in twenty years, since the last family funeral, and am amazed at how many similar decisions we made and like-minded beliefs we hold. I can’t believe how much I have been missing, not the least of which are her three dogs and six cats. Here are my thoughts:
- Marion is filled with quintessential midwest values like really friendly people, patience, look you in the eye, and an easy-going lifestyle. No safe zones or triggers there. We got several good laughs over that.
- My nephew works as a machinist on a press stamping out car parts. The presses slam so hard into the earth they can rattle a building. They need to be placed in a solid part of the earth such as is found in Indiana, adjacent to the craton of the continent.
- I am aggressively looking for a new place to retire so my sister and I looked at houses in Marion Indiana. While we were there, a squall (or a small tornado–some sort of wild wind storm) crashed through her backyard and destroyed her vegetable garden. It knocked the ten-foot-tall corn over as well as the tomato cages. I think that discouraged me from house-hunting further. I was already cross-eyed over summer’s heat and humidity in summer and the 20-below temperatures Marion experienced last winter. Plus, we had to wear boots to walk around my sister’s huge backyard (which is all grass, clover for the bees, and a huge forest) because of chiggers and hats to discourage the flying insects. I don’t think this California girl could put up with that.
- My grand-nephew and I played Minecraft for hours on his Kindle and his computer. That kid is good at the game! And he didn’t mind someone old enough to be his grandma asking tons of questions.
- I helped my sister can green beans, pick squash, check on the bees and their honey, collect eggs, work at her church. Pretty much, whatever she was doing, I tagged along. She was great about that even though I’ve never worked a garden, played with bees, or done accounting at a church. I have a wonderfully patient sister.
- We spent an evening at my niece’s farm and her deer, hogs, fifty chickens, forty cats, beehives, rooster, and barns. We ate home-grown pork steaks and vegetables. There is such a difference in flavor from fresh and store-bought.
Train across American
We boarded Amtrak in Indianapolis Indiana (tucked into a corner of the bus station, on a train that only ran a few times a week), changed trains in Chicago Illinois, and took that for three days to Los Angeles California where we again changed trains (at 7:30 am!) and headed to my local Amtrak station. Here are my thoughts:
- One boarding pass worked for all three legs of our train trip. Wasn’t that nice!
- Our first leg–from Indianapolis to Chicago–took five hours to go what a car would drive in three. Luckily, I was training it for the experience, not the speed.
- I can’t believe how friendly all of these employees are. They listen and smile while they do their jobs.
- Meals were community seating–four to a table. For the first time ever, someone asked me to look at their writing when I said I was a writer.
- One morning, I went in search of coffee and couldn’t find the dining car where I’d left it the night before. Turns out the train folks had rearranged the cars while we slept. The dining car used to be one car down. This morning, I had to travel through three passenger cars and the observation car to find it. I almost gave up.
- America’s Southwest is gorgeous by train.
- The train must blow its whistle as it approaches every crossing and as it travels through. This was a long train so long and continuous train whistles! Often, I awoke at midnight, 1 a.m., 3 a.m., to the haunting sound of the whistle. I did go right back to sleep, thanks to the clackity-clack of the rails.
- The sleeping cabins don’t lock. You simply close the sliding door and trust in the honor system. Even if I could get used to that, the door didn’t always stay closed. I awoke one morning about 1 a.m. to find my door wide open. I started taping it closed after that.
- Small town American may not believe in painting buildings but they do believe in waving the flag. Huzzah!
- There is a ton of open space across America.
What’s your favorite trip?
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Time, first in the Man vs. Nature collection. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.