Tuesday, January 13, 2009

North Carolina, Jan 11

After two months of a stationery lifestyle in Maryland, we’re up and moving again. Currently, we’re visiting friends in Cary, North Carolina. Fred Cunningham and John Brundige were classmates of Thom’s many years ago at West Point, and we’re now enjoying a mini-reunion. We parked the RV in front of John and Juliet’s home, and our boys love playing with their children Ian, Bemmy, Rexy, and Thomas. After an afternoon of driving, Juliet had a home-cooked turkey dinner and wine awaiting us! This morning, we all headed over to Fred and Janette’s new home where they treated us to a wonderful breakfast of custom omelettes. Their children Laura and Mark shared toys with all 8 visiting kids. We could get used to this…life is good!

The chilly weather of MD in the 30’s is changing rapidly as we head south, and we awakened to a temp of 55 this morning. Our dear friends in Alaska experienced temps over the holidays of -55 F. All our winter gear is in storage in Alaska, and I don’t miss the extreme cold. The boys miss the snow, hockey and friends.

So let’s go back to Maryland. Before our departure, we were able to visit with Crystal, Mark, Charlie, and Josh Moran. Crystal and I met about 9 years ago through Moms Club, and spent many cherished times together at parks with our young kids. Charlie and Robby are the same age and reminisced about the old days, as well as discussing current issues like Boy Scouts and Disney World. Their family spent a week in October at Disney, and gave us all the insights. Josh shared his electronic games with our boys down in their basement, and they only surfaced for pizza and photos!

We had a productive doctor’s visit for Ben’s eye. The pediatric ENT was pleased to see he’s recovered beautifully. He described the surgery to remove some of the sinus tissue in his left nasal area, which is fairly straight forward with remote risks. Yet he cautioned us about jumping in so soon to have this procedure done. After discussing it, we opted to wait and watch, being vigilant about any possible congestion or sinusitis. The doctor agreed, and released Ben. So we can now head out of state, which means south for the winter! If Ben picks up a cold or congestion, hopefully we can keep his sinuses clear with Afrin and avoid the left eye from swelling up again. If he swells, we’ll run for the nearest hospital for antibiotics. At that point we may decide to pursue surgery.

A mini-tour of Washington took place following our DC doctor’s visit to include the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, a trip to the top of the Washington Monument, and a wonderful visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in the city. It was a rainy day, but we all enjoyed the sights. We drove past the White House and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial as well.

The next day we packed up and headed south to Fort Monroe, Virginia where we camped for 2 nights at their RV park. From our bedroom window, we watched the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean. I awoke the boys so they could peer out at the beautiful orange sky. After being inland so many months, it’s wonderful to be back on the water. The Army base itself is an old fort, complete with a full moat and “working” interior. Unfortunately, the museum was closed the day Thom took the boys to see it. We understand the base is on the BRAC list, but hope the museum will remain open.

We took a daytrip to the colonial triangle to explore Jamestowne, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. I had no idea they were so close together. You may remember Captain John Smith from your early American history classes as the man who established the first permanent British settlement in North America back around 1608. That’s Jamestowne. Will and Ben completed the Junior Ranger Booklet questionnaire, earning an official Jamestowne patch. We explored the visitors’ center, Fort James, New Towne, and the Archaearium where hundreds of artifacts have been found. The boys were fascinated with the human skeleton on display, which has been nicknamed J.R. complete with the bullet that remains in his right leg. It was a beautiful sunny, crisp day as we walked along the James River. We all put our imaginations to work envisioning life here 400 years ago, when just surviving the winter against disease and Indian attacks was a huge challenge.

From there we drove to the glassblowers’ building, where we watched a female artist create glass candlesticks. Later in the day, we visited a shoemaker’s shop where we spent 30 minutes talking with and watching a shoemaker work on a pair of leather soles. Back in the day, a good craftsman was capable of making 8 pair of shoes in a 6-day workweek. Our boys were impressed with the attention to detail and time spent. They asked many questions about apprenticeships, and learned that some, like shoemaking, required 7 years. It’s a shame we don’t have more handmade products these days.

We had lunch next to the beautiful William and Mary College campus, and then ventured into Williamsburg. It’s a quiet and slow time for tourists, so we stepped right up to the stockades. The boys couldn’t wait to place their hands and heads into the stocks! We spoke with men and women in costume, who explained interested things about colonial life. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a great way to learn about our country and we see firsthand how these “field trips” relate directly to their history lessons. Robby has American History for 8th grade now, which is ideal for this year on the road. Robby is a Star Scout in Boy Scouts, and is working on his Citizen of the Nation merit badge. He researched Williamsburg and designed questions for each of us to find the answers to on our daytrip. We then “reported back” at the end of our day, and passed!

Will is also a Boy Scout, with the rank of Tenderfoot. He’s working on a few merit badges, which ties in again beautifully with our visits to these historic sites. Ben is a Bear Cub Scout, and Sam is a Tiger, and you can bet they’re also checking off many requirements to achieve their rank.

Briefly, we drove into the Yorktown Visitors’ Center, which is only about 10 miles from Williamsburg. This is where General Cornwallis of Britain surrendered to the Patriots; thus, ending the American Revolutionary War back in 1781.

The day came to a fine finish as we drove to Doug and Michelle Mikatarian’s home at Virginia Beach. Michelle cooked up a scrumptious meal, which we enjoyed with their two daughters Kaitlin and Kendra. The Merlot from Folie a Duex flowed as we caught up since our last visit about 6 years ago. The boys pumped Doug with lots of questions about nuclear submarines, which Doug commands at Norfolk. It’s truly great catching up with so many long time friends.

Now we can add two more states to our map on the outside of the RV: North Carolina and Virginia. It’s a great way of showing all the places in North America we’ve visited.

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