Sailing the Waterways of the Potomac

Here’s a bit of trivia for you, compliments of David, sailor extraordinaire:  The Potomac is part of Maryland; every part of it, all the way up to the waters’ edge that meets Virginia.

On Sunday, David and Melody took us sailing on their Pearson 28, their pride and joy named, “Paradiso” (Paradise).  It truly is paradise; especially for David, who has a high-stress, high-level job with the federal government.  Once he is on the water, you can see the stress melt right off his face; pure joy.

Bruce and I felt honored that David would not only take us sailing; he taught us how to sail his boat.  Well, sort of…  David is an excellent teacher, don’t get me wrong.  But, a Pearson 28 isn’t like a Laser or some other little boat that can be handled solo with ease.  It takes a team to get it right; especially if half of us are newbies!

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If you are used to handling a tiller, like I was in the limited experience I had sailing as a kid, handling a wheel is a different story.  Instead of pushing the tiller away from you to get the boat to turn toward you, the wheel turns just as it does in a car; turn to the right and the boat will turn to the right.  But, the wheel on a sailboat isn’t as responsive as a wheel on a car.  There is a bit of a delay, so it is easy to overcorrect; something both Bruce and I did numerous times before we got the hang of it.

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What a blast!  It was a lovely day on the Potomac.  And, as we settled in and enjoyed the sun and breeze, we were informed we were in/at/on Maryland!  Quantico Yacht Club was on the Marine base, in Virginia, however, it becomes Maryland, as soon as you are on or in the water.  So, why not add it to my list of states traveled?  It is, after all, a state I have been to, but never stepped foot on!  That’s gotta be worth somethin’.  Put an * next to it, just like Barry Bonds should have next to his homerun record.

Melody prepared a delicious picnic for our little sailing adventure and we enjoyed it while nestled in a quiet cove. The entire experience kept bringing me back to my childhood, when Dad would take us sailing on our Cal 20.  Mom would pack us up some Hebrew National Salami sandwiches and toss in some fruit, chips, and Shasta sodas.  Remember Shasta?  They were inexpensive and pretty darn good!  Dad’s favorite part of lunch was actually dessert:  Frozen Milky Way bars.

After lunch, dad would take a snooze and my big brother and sister would sail the boat.  I was the youngest (Paul called me, “Motor Mouth” or “Mighty Mouth” back in those days.  Now, he just calls me “Old Fart”, every time he phones me on my birthday.  But, I keep reminding him that he will ALWAYS be 31/2 years older than me…).  As the youngest in the family, I was often pushed aside and told (or yelled at) to, “Get out of the way!”  Therefore, I never learned to sail as good as my brother and sister did.  But, it was fun, anyway.

I don’t remember my biggest sis, Gail, on many (or any?) of those sailing excursions.  She was the smart one, missing out on all that bickering…

Those sure were great memories; bickering and all.  And, being in/at/on Maryland’s Potomac, brought those memories flooding back.

Remember Fresca? I thought that soda was long gone!  My mom used to drink it, along with Tab.  I forgot how tasty that stuff really was, until Melody offered me one on the boat.  Of course, she doctored hers up a bit and added dark rum to the bubbles.  She called it a “Frisky” and it was gooood.  After we returned to Virginia (Quantico Yacht Club, that is…), I had a Frisky, too.  But, wait!  I was technically still in Maryland, because we kicked back on the boat to enjoy some happy hour cocktails, before heading on home.

Before we head out, let me show you something Melody painted- from scratch- in the kiddie room at the yacht club.  She, like David, is quite the talented artist.  And, she has an imagination that is such a joy.  Check it out!  This is sure to bring a smile and warm your heart.

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Remember Turtle Wax?  Check out what those turtles are up to, at the top left side of the painting.  And, how about Elvis?  He’s down in the lower right.  In between, there are all sorts of fun things goin’ on; plenty to keep the kiddies (and their parents) smiling!  Personally, I like the dolphins the best.  Did you notice that it’s a male dolphin chasing after the female?  If I were Flipperette, I would have been chasing after Flipper; no doubt.

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The following day, it was rainy and dreary which was just fine with us.  After having five perfect days of beautiful weather, who could complain?  Besides, we were content with spending the day, relaxing at Melody and Dave’s, not doing much of anything at all.  I had my netbook with me, so Bruce and I took turns catching up on e-mails and surfing the ‘net.

I was ecstatic after reading one of those e-mails in my inbox; a notification from my U.S. Masters Swimming team that a relay I swam on at Athens, in 2011, made 2011 FINA World Top Ten Rankings!  Whaaaat?  For real?  I had to look it up on FINA (world governing organization for swimming, including Olympics), just to make sure.  There it was; we were ranked 9th IN THE WORLD, in our age group!

I knew the day we swam that we had broken a state record.  That alone sent me into a happy dance; high-fives all around. But, then, we learned through another e-mail that we had made the U.S. Masters Swimming Top Ten, placing 4th in the country.  You should have seen me kick up my heels then…  But, this was awesome!  It was great news; especially coming off Nationals, where I didn’t swim my best times, due to a muscle strain that occured one week before the biggest meet of the year.  I still swam well (considering) and had a blast, but I was frustrated.

Nothing like getting great news when you are already happily humming along on a terrific vacation!

The following day, we said our goodbyes and began our rail journey back to Atlanta, traveling aboard the Crescent, once again.  Before we boarded our train, we wandered around Union Station, admiring the beautiful architecture and new renovations.

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Our train ride back was pretty much the same experience as our ride up to D.C., except for our dining companions who were quite the enthusiastic and enjoyable couple.  They just loved being on the train; a new experience for them.  So, it was fun to chat over dinner, comparing travel experiences.

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And, that is where our journey ends; back in Atlanta where it all began.  It was the perfect vacation; visiting great people who we are proud to call our friends, touring our nation’s capitol, enjoying great food, and doing photography; all while enjoying it with my favorite person of all: Bruce.

Thank you for joining us on our journey.  I hope you enjoyed reading my travel tales as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Monuments and Memorials: A Walk Through History

The nice thing about arriving in D.C. by train is that Union Station is in the heart of the city; all accessible on foot.  So, we set out with the idea of walking the Washington Mall to the furthest destination first, then working our way back, as the day wore on and we wore out; a good strategy, considering the lack of sleep we got on the train.  Our other strategy was to see what we most wanted to see first and prioritizing the sights in that order.  Fortunately, as far as monuments and memorials went, we most wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial, as well as the new Martin Luther King Memorial; both located a fair distance away (on foot) from Union Station.

The Washington Mall itself was disappointing, because it was all torn up for refurbishment.  The reflecting pools, instead, were mounds of dirt and concrete; not exactly picturesque.  But, refurbishment is necessary to keep our capitol looking as spiffy as it should be, so we understood.  Besides, it gives us an excuse to go back someday, so we can see it in all its beauty- as well as visit all the Smithsonians we missed this time around!

We have seen plenty of photos of Lincoln Memorial, but no photo does it justice; including the ones I shot:

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 Not until you see it in person do you realize what a magnificent masterpiece this memorial is.  We were in awe.

Before heading over to see the new Martin Luther King Memorial, we visited the World War II Memorial, as well as the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial.  The last one was especially difficult and emotional to view; especially when we saw the thousands of names of soldiers engraved in the granite wall; all lives lost in a war our country had no business being a part of in the first place. 

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We almost missed the Martin Luther King Memorial, because most of it can’t be viewed from the street.  But, once we entered, we were quite impressed with what had been created to honor that great man.  Martin Luther King would have been proud.

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There was a huge curved wall on each side of the entrance with engraved quotes; all inspiring and memorable. This truly was a fabulous memorial.

After a long day and many miles walked, we headed back to Union Station to collect our suitcases and board a VRE (Virginia Railway Express) train to Rolling Road Station, Virginia, where Melody met us and took us back to their lovely home.

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As you can see, Melody is quite the gardener!  Their backyard was a beautiful and serene place to relax, complete with hot tub (located to the right of where I was standing) and numerous feeders to attract an array of beautiful birds.  Between the birds, chipmunks, and squirrels, there was plenty of wildlife to watch; a sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle of Washington, D.C.

The following day, David took us in with him to work, so we could catch our 7:30 AM (!!!) tour of the White House.  David is the C.F.O. of the Nationals Institute of Standards and Technology; part of the Department of Commerce, located very close to the White House.

Security at the White House is extremely tight, as you can imagine.  We first had to be put through a background check, before we even received confirmation of our tour date.  For the tour, we could only take in our wallets; no purses or bags allowed.  And, DEFINITELY, no cameras.  Since there is no place at (or near) the White House to lock them up, David had us lock up our belongings in his car while we went on tour, and gave us a key to return for them later.

The tour was self-guided, however, there were security personnel available to ask questions.  The tour led us through a hallway where we could peek into the Library, Vermeil Room, and China Room, before walking through the East Room (used for receptions, ceremonies, press conferences, and other events), Green Room (used for receptions), Blue Room (often used by the President to receive guests), and Red Room (used for small receptions).  Of those rooms, the Blue Room was most unique; oval in shape and a beautiful shade of blue.

The State Dining Room was the last of rooms we viewed.  It can seat 130 guests at dinners and luncheons.  Carved into the fireplace mantel is a quotation from a letter by John Adams:  “I pray Heaven to Bestow the Best of Blessings on THIS HOUSE and All that shall hereafter inhabit it.  May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under this Roof.”  His prayers were answered during some presidencies, however, definitely not by others (Think: NIXON).

Since the second and third floors are used only by the Obamas and their guests, it was off-limits on our tour.  But, just getting to see any of the White House was a special experience!  And, after visiting the White House Visitors Center (excellent and highly recommended), I insisted on returning later with my camera, so I could photograph the front and back of that majestic mansion; the oldest public building in the District of Columbia:

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“TOURISTS!!!”  Yeah, I know.  Shamelss.  But, there is something special about visiting the presidential home in your native country that makes you want to join in on the spectacle.  All hopes of blending in as you would hope to do while traveling in a foreign country are tossed aside.  All bets are off.  So, we took a gazillion photos of each other with the White House in the background.  And, when we weren’t photographing each other, we were being asked by the other tourists to shoot photos of them with their cameras.  We were just two of thousands of people doing the exact same thing- that day alone.  And, after double and triple-checking that I really did get some decent photos, I mentally crossed the White House off my bucket list of must-see, must-do places to visit.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Next up:  Smithsonian Renwick Gallery