Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Wow! What a Month it Was!

September proved to be quite a month, indeed! Rob and I arrived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, on September 2nd, which was Labor Day and also our daughter Kristie's birthday.

We pulled into the most beautiful KOA campground we've seen to date. If you ever take a camping trip to visit Washington DC, this is the place to be. Just a 1 1/4 hour drive into DC, the KOA is nestled within a woodsy area, well away from any busy and noisy roads, with plenty of tall trees to shade the spacious campsites. The restrooms are clean, although a little far from the tent sites, which are the ones that mostly need them. There's a pond in which to fish or on which you can paddleboat around for, I think, $5.00 an hour. I guarantee, though, you'll be done paddling after 15 minutes. The store is well stocked with all manner of sundry and the KOA Kamp Workers were friendly albeit uninformed when it came to my one and only complaint.

I don't know the owner's situation regarding their WiFi internet service and no one had any answers. We got blank stares when we asked. When you full-time RV like us, internet access becomes a necessity rather than a convenience, so when we arrived and sat down to read the brochure given upon check-in, we were dismayed to find language which made it clear that if you use the internet too much they will shut you down by slowing the access speed to the point a of snail's crawl. The paperwork stated that they 'would be monitoring' their guest's use. No one could answer if this had anything to do with their internet service or lack thereof; or whether it had anything to do with cost. And being that the KOA is located within a metropolitan area, the probability of sketchy service is unlikely. Therefore, our conclusion was that the owner's found it to be their duty to make sure guests were camping rather than conducting any business or watching movies via their internet. In their vast and astute knowledge, they singlehandedly decided they knew what was best for us. If they were charged extra by their internet provider when certain bandwidth was exceeded, then they should charge a nominal fee. One expects to have internet become slow when a campground is full of people, but not when its virtually empty; and, if they advertise that they have WiFi, and free at that, then so be it. Stop controlling. 

So that none of you think we are merely whining because we didn't have good internet service, let me explain further. Granted, I was disappointed that I couldn't update my blog, but that was neither here nor there. My blog can wait. It just means all of you will be reading many more paragraphs in one sitting than usual. And I can only hope that you will—read them, that is. The crux of the problem is, as I said before, internet for us, at least on occasion, is a necessity. Our Rand-McNally GPS quit working. Rob worked with Rand-McNally's technical department and it was determined that it wasn't a software, but a hardware, problem. The company sent us a new unit, which arrived at the KOA a couple of days after we did. Rob attempted to download the software and maps necessary to run the unit. He couldn't complete the download because the owners shut us down rendering our GPS useless, at least temporarily. 

Some of you would think, "why not just use the GPS on your phone?" This is why: The Rand McNally GPS is designed for RVs. It allows you to input the size of your rig—its length, weight, height and whether or not you are towing. It routes you on roads suitable to your needs. Could you imagine driving a 40 foot rig that is nearly 12 feet high, and towing a car, down a two lane road on which you encounter an overpass with 10 feet 4 inch clearance? What are we supposed to do? Do a K-turn? It also keeps you off roads with weight limits, or curves too sharp for a rig our size to maneuver safely, or tunnels that don't allow vehicles carrying propane. The list goes on. This particular KOA made our lives difficult to say the least. We are thankful that we knew the route to Mandy and Steve's in Virginia Beach would offer no real obstacles; however, we were told by another RVer that the tunnel under the Chesapeake Bay via the Hampton Roads Beltway required that you shut off your propane before entering. Good information to know, and thankfully there was signage and places for rigs like ours to pull over to prepare for entering the tunnel.

So, in a nutshell, what this taught me is whenever I intend to make reservations anywhere, I will make a call to ask about their internet service and if it isn't satisfactory, I will explain why we will not be doing business with them and will turn to a competitor instead.

During the two weeks we stayed in Fredericksburg, one place we visited was the Richmond Historical Society. I've been waiting many years to visit there to see the musket my many times great grandfather, Col. Thomas D. Ligon, used in 1644, to fight off indians, killing seven, to defend the home of the widowed wife of one Dr. Woodson. The musket is nearly 8 feet in length and one can only imagine what it took to hold such a thing steady and shoot accurately in the midst of attack. It's mindboggling. Also, while there, we observed a painting of Sir William Berkeley, who was 2nd cousin to Thomas Ligon and sent to the colonies in 1641, by King Charles I, to be the Royal Governor of Virginia. Thomas Ligon accompanied his cousin to the New World because he knew he would likely hold no titles of nobility as he was a second son of a second son. Thomas Ligon became a surveyor, a farmer and a community and political leader. I am proud to know that my ancestor was a brave man and played an important role in helping shape this country.

Rob and I also visited Washington DC, twice. Both times we came home with aching backs and sore feet. The first day we spent at the National Air and Space Museum. The second, we walked the mall, visiting the Lincoln Memorial, Viet Nam Memorial, the World War II Memorial and saw part of the National Museum of American History, which by the time we got there we pretty much could only walk ourselves back to the Metro. We did get to see the original flag flown when Frances Scott Key wrote the words to our National Anthem. The sign said 'No Photography.' But I took photos anyway. Why? Because the sign was for people who have flashes on their cameras. Light is very destructive to precious fabrics. I have no flash, so click away I did and now I have my own souvenir. We missed so much, though. The Viet Nam Memorial was an important place for me to see. I remember much of DC from when I visited as a teenager, but Rob had never been so we took in as many sites as possible. We do want to go back, but when we do, we will drive in instead of take the Metro, and we will take cabs instead of walk. Lesson learned.

Then we were off to Mandy and Steve's and looking forward to their Renewal of Vows ceremony and week-long fun in the beach mansion they rented in the Outer Banks. What an amazing place it was! Ten bedrooms and ten and a half baths on three levels. Of course there were stairs—lots and lots of stairs. But the good thing was, there was an elevator, too! I had to lay down the law with the kids—no playing in the elevator. Take the stairs!

Steve took on the duties as his own caterer and would've been more overwhelmed than he was if he hadn't been so loved by all the family and friends willing to help out. Most everyone played the part of sous chef at some point, and others as cooks and dishwashers. Everyone chipped in and we all had a blast because of it. What I liked best was there was no drama, except for the drama we wanted and that was seeing Mandy look absolutely breathtaking as a 'bride' and the love in Steve's eyes. Even the weather cooperated with beautiful, sunny, blue skies and nary a cloud. Sadly, the day before wasn't as nice for the couple who married on the beach next door. It had been overcast, cold and windy. I wish them well and hope their wedding day wasn't a harbinger.

I don't think the kids will soon forget what a great time they had, either. They had a spa, a swimming pool, a game room and a movie theater to occupy them. With the exception of a few tears, they all got along very well. Looking back, I'm sad I didn't take photos of the kids at play. Doh!

It was also wonderful to visit with my ex-husband's family and better get to know many of Mandy and Steve's friends. The event was held on Tuesday and by Thursday morning, most everyone was gone. By the end of the week, we had a fun and intimate group: John and Lisa, who Mandy met while they were all in the Navy, our daughter, Susanna with husband Terry, our daughter, Kristie with husband Matt, grandson, Cayman, and my niece Stacy with her daughter, Kailynn the flower girl, who came all the way from Germany to be there. What a pleasure to see all of them.

The day after the event, almost everyone spent the afternoon in the pool house playing 'Cards Against Humanity.' Hilarious! One day, the men went crabbing on the dock behind where the Beast was parked at a campground on Colington Island, while the girls went shopping (except me), and that night it was Blue Crab for dinner. On another day, some of us visited the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

What a fun week! Good food. Good people. Good weather. Good place. Good job, Mandy and Steve! And, thank you, for providing it.

Now, I am at Mandy and Steve's house with my computer set up on the dining table, staying with Jaydon and Leo, while the honeymooners are relaxing in Jamaica. Good for them. Better late than never. I'm glad Mandy finally got her wedding. I'm also glad Rob and I didn't have to pay for it! Only kidding (NOT!).  :-)

A local fisher at the KOA pond.

The musket used by my ancestor, Col. Thomas D. Ligon

I was surprised to see the lack of information in this sloppy 'plaque' next to the musket.

I waited for years to see this.

My cousin, Sir William Berkeley

A Conestoga wagon, probably similar to those used by my Ligon ancestors when they left Virginia for Texas before the Civil War.

This photo is for my banjo playin' husband.

This once resided on Pete Seeger's banjo.

We drove 25 minutes out of our way to get a photo of this historical marker. Thanks, Rob.

Leo and Papa on the scooter at the KOA.

The kind of scene that Mandy loves.

Mandy and Steve enjoying the paddleboat.

This handsome and fearsome visitor was found by Mandy while folding up their tent.

I think I scared this guy more than he scared us. I had to touch his hind legs to get him to move off so he wouldn't get squished.

Our little group enjoying our weekend.

Our flag painted on the side of one of the Gemini space capsules at the Air and Space Museum.

Rob checking out ancient circuit boards.

You can see Rob and me, taking the shot, in the reflection.

A real lunar module, although not one that actually landed on the moon.

Rob's great grandfather once flew with Charles Lindburg.

Amelia Earhart called this plane 'the big red bus.'

Everybody got that?

Ah, early flight. Or not.

Looks as flimsy as a paraglider but probably less safe.

The Voyager. What Rob came most to see.

Our Nation's Capitol. I always hear that in my head with Forrest Gump's voice.

Friendly little Capitol Mall resident.

This guy hung around for quite awhile at the campground.

Historic Fredericksburg.

Cute little restaurant in Fredericksburg.

Resident kitty at the shop called 'The Cat's Corner.'

As beautiful and majestic as when I first saw it in 1970.

Rob resting his knee at the Lincoln Memorial.

Too many names.

Gary J. Davis. Rob's roommate in flight school.

Meant for reflection.

World War II Memorial.


Damaged by earthquake. It was being repaired in 1970 as well. Sigh.

About as close as we got to the White House.

The original flag that flew o'er the ramparts while Frances Scott Key wrote the words to our National Anthem.

This old photograph shows the scale of the flag. It is massive.

I wanted to read the whole thing, but it was difficult.

This one will be given to David's Bridal. Mandy had a good experience there.

My favorite photo of the day.

Does he love her or what?

Jim, Jaydon, Steve, Leo, Billy and Sully.

Despina, Rachel, Lisa, Kristie and little Kailynn.

The future's so bright, ya gotta wear shades!

Going swimming as part of a wedding reception. Kids love it!

Kiddie pool!

A beautiful ending to a beautiful day.

Finally quiet.

Playing 'Cards Against Humanity' in the pool house.

Steve, relaxing after a busy few days cooking.

What a fun place to vacation.

Sea Oats at dusk.

The boys go crabbin'.
Checking the crab lines. Jaydon caught the first two crabs.

Hey hey!!


Prepping the cooked crab.
The mighty Atlantic on the last night at the beach house.

At the Wright Brothers National Memorial. This looks like a view out a window, complete with footprints in the sand but, alas, it is a simple diorama.

Rob pointing out something notable to Susanna.

Wilbur Wright.

With my brethren.

Jaydon with Papa.

Kill Devil Hill, in Kitty Hawk where the Wright's tested their gliders.

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