Had to say goodbye to this FABULOUS group of women this morning , and I was crying in the car. They are just the nicest women in North Carolina ! Had a blast working out with them and they were so welcoming ! Woohoo for Jazzercise !
We’ve been at Dave and Claudia’s for almost a month now, and it will be hard to leave on Sunday. What a gift it has been to have this time with them, how gracious they have been to make us feel at home, how kind it was that they extended the invitation. What an incredible cook Claudia is. It’s been so much fun to hang out with them and to play with Luca and Owen! We figured out that Dave and Dan haven’t lived together since Minnie-apple, so that’s almost 30 years. They’ve both lived in various locations, and we’ve had glorious vacations together, but to have the twins be under the same roof – priceless.
It didn’t start out too well, however. We left Raleigh a day early, because we just couldn’t wait any longer to see them, and arrived on their street, all ready to back the rig into their driveway below. Please note all the trees on the right, because Dan and Dave both worked on trimming them and both had accidents doing so. We were lucky to not visit the ER, and Dan’s ribs weren’t broken, but he was hurting for a good 10 days. (Even now I can’t pretend punch him!) While we were half way backing into the driveway while trimming, a neighbor came by, and within 5 minutes she had called the president of the homeowner’s association to complain about the RV… not exactly a warm welcome. Yes, these are high-end homes, but who doesn’t welcome their neighbor’s family for a visit? I didn’t know people like that still existed. Dave visited with all the other neighbors, and no one else had a problem with it. So this was our parking spot for the month.
We quickly settled in to our own rooms, and I thought we’d never see Nate again. Dave moved his office, so Nate got the penthouse, complete with weights, a real bed and a door that closes. I’m sure if there was a fridge and microwave in there we’d never see him. So nice to be here.
Saturday soccer! Really fun to see the boys play and to sit in the sun and reminisce about when Eliza played soccer and we found out she was allergic to grass. We were able to see 4 of the boys’ games and it was worth the 12,450 mile drive! Luca and Owen are athletes like their Dad.
At the local park, Dave threw the football to the boys for hours. Nate is a football fanatic now, so he really enjoyed the time with Dave. In between, Luca and Nate would pummel each other and Owen would play with the dogs. Pretty much perfect.
I found a place to workout only 6 miles away, and these women are so congenial, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to dance! I am a Jazzercise addict, both for what it does for my physical health as well as my mental health – there is nothing better than sweating hard while dancing, lifting, singing and laughing. I went almost every morning, while the kids were doing school, so it worked into our schedule really well. One day a week I did a double and I would be smiling the rest of the day. Got some of my strength back, woohoo!
The kids have been doing an incredible job with online school while we are here. They have their computers in their rooms, and the wifi works (as opposed to RV parks!), so they are able to work and take breaks when they want. Dan is helping both of them with math, and I do the proofreading. It’s interesting to see what they are learning, but they both still hate it. There are no friends to break up the coursework, like brick and mortar schools. I keep telling them to enjoy it, because when we go home they will be complaining about that school, but that doesn’t help. For now, I am proud of them for working so hard and managing their work on their own.
We went downtown and toured the area before seeing a local mime group put on a black light Halloween show. Charlotte is a cool town; reminded me a lot of Portland for it’s vibe – very cool. They were just named the most livable city, and I can see why. The weather is temperate, the infrastructure is all new, and it’s GREEN everywhere you look. The population has exploded in the past 20 years, with only 12% being natives. People are moving from up north in droves. It’s the second biggest financial center in the US (to NYC) and the first week we were here they were on an orange alert – which evidently happens frequently.
As opposed to Oregon, one of the most un-churched states, there is a church on every corner here and people actually attend on Sunday mornings. So refreshing to be around other believers. This picture is from the second floor balcony (there are 3) at Calvary Church, Billy Graham’s home church. (He attended here.) We went twice because we liked the pastor – Dr. John Munro from Scotland. My favorite line was when he received an email that said, “Quit telling God how big your storm is; instead tell the storm how big your God is.” He has recently been through some difficultly. They have programs and speakers that I could only dream of in little Bend.
I’m at the Harris YMCA working on this blog while the kids are working out. It’s so nice it’s almost like a private club. Nate’s gets a private trainer for an hour each day, and the other buff athletes cannot believe he’s only 13. Neither can we; he acts 21. Eliza does a circuit set and is working on running a mile faster; I’m sure I won’t be able to keep up now. We are hoping to do a 5k in Florida together – in the sun and heat! Bring it on.
So we hit the road on Sunday morning, and it will be hard. We have loved spending time with Dave, Claudia, Luca and Owen and are so grateful for this time together. On the other hand, the road is calling…
“12,450 miles of living on the road as a family…! We’ve gotten to hug so many people we love, see cities and vistas we’ve only dreamed of, learned about 35 states, visited Mexico and 5 cool Canadian provinces, eaten great food, laughed at what passes for a mountain in the East, read books we’ve had on our lists, missed our friends and family in Oregon, played board games everywhere, had mosquitos, spiders and ticks where they shouldn’t be, survived insane weather and a new rig, driven beautiful back roads that take your breath away, listened to great music, met nice people, seen weird people, grocery shopped where we shook our heads, collected rocks and shells, gotten lost, argued, and hiked and biked everywhere possible – it’s been a blast. We know we are blessed and we know God is our majestic co-pilot. There is nothing better than living our dream!!! Now we get to stay with Dave and his family in Charlotte, NC for a month. Aren’t they kind and crazy?! We’re going to sugar the boys up on Halloween, then run to Florida for the winter. We know where we’ll be, so holler if you’re in the area… Nate did the black line on the map for us, and yes, that’s really our planned route!”
Just GO Do It – Live YOUR Dream!
The island really is this narrow at some points and they battle the Atlantic ocean and Pamlico Sound in some areas full time. They build up the sand, it gets washed away. And so on and so on. They often close one lane because the water is too deep and a local told me that summer driving is really crazy. We didn’t see the traffic because we are here after Labor Day. The further we drove north on the island, however, the busier it got and it just kept going that way as we drove to a park outside Raleigh, NC. Good-bye island life.
Jordan Lakes campground is outside Raleigh, and when Dan and I made the reservation in May, it looked perfect on paper. Huge reservoir, lots of trees, good sites, swimming area, fairly new. We pulled in to our spot and I could’t stop laughing. There were two full timers parked next to us and the older man got up from his fishing, bringing his chair, and sat down and watched us set up. We were the afternoon’s entertainment! We’ve been at places where people watch you, and especially if they see the Oregon plates (they tell each other and we can hear them), but it’s never been this blatant. I quickly pulled down the blinds on his side, but as we set up outside, we were on full display. Argh! But hilarious, too.
Beautiful site, but it rained all afternoon, so we just stayed inside and read and played games. We were waiting to hear from Michelle, the coordinator for the online school we had used last year, so I told the kids to enjoy their last day of freedom. We had started studying with real books back in August, and the kids were doing well, but we received new information about Eliza’s high school credits and the need to “prove” them, so after much prayer, we relented and went back to the online school. It will be easier when we go home because the credits will already be part of our school district, but it’s hard on them. So for now, we relax.
We are staying at the Cape Hatteras KOA for a few days, and we drove down to the lighthouse today to check it out. It’s huge! Built in 1810, in 1999 they moved it 1500′ inland so it would be “safer” from the encroachment of the ocean. At 210′ high, it is the 15th tallest in the USA, but they say it’s the tallest BRICK one. We didn’t take the tour and walk the steps up, because we’ve “been there, done that”! Go ahead, ask us about Fresnel lens’!
We toured the keeper’s homes, too, and lucked out when I asked the ranger where we could go to collect shells. Dad had mentioned that this is supposed to be a good area, and the ranger complied by telling us a super-secret, not to be shared location. We drove, then hiked to the beach and I didn’t want to leave. Not only were there tons of shells, but the view was spectacular. And it was warm! We were warm AND at the beach, how novel.
Nate found part of a horseshoe crab. Look at the color of that water! We played until we got hungry, then hiked back to the car and drove back north to the campground. This KOA is right on the beach, we are in a spot backed up to the little berm that separates the beach from the campground, and we can hear the ocean. It’s beautiful.
If you look up the Outer Banks on a map, you can see how thin they are. At some spots, the land is only a couple hundred feet wide – the Pamlico sound on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. This is the sunset at 7:02 p.m. that night over the sound. We ran from our site to see it and every night we were there we went to see it. Heaven.
We drove into Richmond today to tour the capitol and learn a little more history. It’s a cute little building, designed by Thomas Jefferson, based on a first century roman temple that he had seen. The hill hides a huge visitors entrance and museum which was recently added.
Our guide was a bit of a pill, concerned that the kids weren’t in school, then made a sarcastic comment about being in Oregon years ago when our bumper stickers said to “visit, but not stay”. I bit my tongue and am so proud of myself. Unhappy people don’t deserve replies!
I didn’t realize that this building was both the government seat for Virginia, and also the Confederate headquarters during the Civil War. We’ve been so many places where they commandeered people’s homes and businesses to use as their headquarters, I didn’t even think they might use the capitol. Although 60% of the battles of the Civil War were fought in Virginia, the capitol was not harmed.
The guide was VERY proud to be from Virginia. He rattled off facts about the state, and most often he started his sentences with, “Virginia was first to” do – whatever, you name it. I kept telling the kids they were first because people settled here first! Not that they were superior in any way to neighboring states – it’s just that more people lived here first. The land was good, and people moved in to farm, and small cities grew up around them.
This statue of George Washington is a first because he actually posed for it and it is life-size. Or so the guide said! It’s housed right below the dome, which has stripes painted on the inside. The bust behind Washington is one of 8 along the walls. I cannot tell who it is exactly, but it’s one of our presidents; 4 of the first 5 presidents were from Virginia, and 6 out of the first 10. To date, there are 8 presidents from Virginia and the busts were all in this room.
The building is beautiful on the inside; first completed in 1788, they’ve done a huge restoration in the last few years. Each room had paintings that were original to the building and I could write a page just about them, they were so magnificent. It was pretty cool to stand where Jefferson first wrote the Declaration of Independence, or bits and pieces.
This is a mace and was a gift from Parliament in England when the House of Burgesses was established here in 1619. The sergeant at arms will get it out and ceremoniously use it to open the session each time they meet. It was beautiful, and the old Senate room was reproduced very nicely.
Eliza wasn’t feeling well, so we left before the tour was over. It was such a tiny capitol, I don’t think we missed much. I’m glad we went, but we were happy to leave!
We left for Monticello early that morning, while it was still cold and a little overcast. By the time we got to the mountain, we were warm and it was getting muggy. We didn’t get lost, but had a hard time finding the turn for his home – there is no sign on the main road for it. I went into the visitors center and bought the tour tickets – $100 for the four of us. We had read about it and decided to go for the history, but really didn’t want to spend that much. We found out later that we could have ridden the shuttle up to the house, walked around on our own, and taken the slave tour or the garden tour for free. We wouldn’t have seen the inside of the house, however, and I wanted the kids to see it.
We were on the 9:15 a.m. tour, and even though it was early, our guide really just phoned it in. He had been working there since 1985 and was a wet noodle! He wasn’t interesting, barely informative, and really herded us from room to room quickly. It’s not all his fault – it was as crowded a tour as Ben & Jerry’s, and they pack us in the same way each 15 minutes. We’d stand in a room, he’d describe 3-4 things, and ask for questions. Then he herded us to the next room, shut the door behind us, and repeat.
Fortunately, the house itself is interesting. Jefferson studied architecture, and he was very proud of the design. The 1,000 acres had been in his family for years, and while he was growing up he’d roam the mountain and dream about what he would build someday. He started clearing the land in 1768, and moved into the South Pavillon in 1770. In 1772, his wife Martha moved in and they lived there while work was continuing on the main house. It’s the cutest little house on 2 levels, and it became a guest house. You can Google Monticello and see how incredible the place is. It has a dome, which he became famous for, and an east and a west entrance. He didn’t want to ruin the view, so he put all “the dependencies” almost underground – the kitchen, storage, stables – all of it is under decks that extend from the house. Ingenious for the heat and for keeping all the hustle and bustle away from his work area.
Because he was a busy, brilliant man. Member of the House of Burgess. Lawyer. Ambassador to France. Author of the Declaration of Independence, and author of the Statue of Virginia for Religious Freedom (which is a precursor to the First Amendment), 3rd President of the United States, and a founder of the University of Virginia. He also designed many of the university buildings. He was an avid learner all his life, and while in France, he spent more on buying and sending books home than on any other items. He kept meticulous records of what he spent all his life, but he was not good with money, and later died in such debt that his daughter had to sell the property. She had moved in with him (and her 11 children) after his wife had died and he was so busy helping to run the new country – he was Secretary of State, VP, then President. He wasn’t proud of being President, however, because he didn’t like all the criticism, and it isn’t even listed on his tombstone.
After the house tour, we went outside to look around the huge gardens. The picture below is Nate, Eliza and Dan, (probably thinking, “another picture?”) in front of the west side – which is the side on the nickel. Only the family entered on this side, however, and it was the east side where visitors came in to the house. The house looks small, half the size of Mt. Vernon, but it’s deceiving because of everything underground and it still had plenty of room for the whole family.
We didn’t take the Slave Tour, but we did take the house tour with a descendent of Sally Hemingway, the slave that Jefferson had relations with after his wife died. Supposedly Martha had him promise that he would never marry again. He had 200-300 slaves, with 80 of them living on this property. After he died he did not set them free because he thought the land needed to be worked, and knew it was not possible to maintain without all of the slaves. He was a very exacting man, but supposedly treated them well.
We took the Garden Tour from a very classy woman who knew everything about the plants of which Jefferson was so proud, but kept calling us, “darlings”. She would end each sentence with it, and then move to the next plant or fact. I wanted to laugh out loud, and barely contained myself. The tour itself was excellent. Jefferson loved plants, and designed the gardens while living elsewhere. He would send packets of seeds home, with the exact location where he wanted them to be planted. The picture below was my favorite; the variegated colors are beautiful. Unfortunately, I can’t read my own writing to see what it’s called! I do know it was planted by “TJ in 1786.”
The last part of the Garden Tour was the actual 1,000 foot food garden. Jefferson had his slaves working on it for 3 years, and one even dictated a book about it. They took away the red clay, brought in loads of manure, and planted according to Jefferson’s specifications. He even hired a young man from England to help design it perfectly. It has a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside, and if they hadn’t battled with the scarcity of water on the mountaintop continually, he would have expanded it further. He said that he wished he had figured out the water problem during his life, or that he shouldn’t have built on the top of the mountain.
We hiked down the hill to the visitors center, watched the movie about his life, went through the museum, and then headed home. I’m glad we spent the time and money to see Monticello, and I’d recommend it to anyone in the area – if you can find it!
Eliza and I headed out early, driving to the College Park Metro station to catch the train into D.C. on our own. The boys were tired of sight-seeing and wanted a day to do nothing, and Eliza and I were happy to oblige. We parked in a huge lot, hoping we could find the car when we returned, and put more money on our transit cards to get us into town. We got off near the Archives again, and went to see if we could learn something, anything, from their movie, which once again, wasn’t playing. Could someone please update their website? So frustrating.
We walked over to the East Art Gallery, one building I really wanted Eliza to see, only to find that the “minor construction” listed online actually meant that none of the galleries were open. NONE. Communication is an art also, wish someone in D.C. could learn it to make tourist’s lives easier! (Ooh, now I sound like I need a day off!)
We headed to the “Newseum” building next, thinking we could spend some time learning there, but it was $22.95/each and we only had 45 minutes, so strike 3, we just read a few of the headlines they had outside. They even had the front page of the Oregonian! Fun to see what various areas of the country put on the front page. We will have to look online later to see what exhibits they have inside because I’ve heard it’s good.
We made it to the National Portrait Gallery just in time for the 11 a.m. tour. It was the best tour of the whole two weeks in D.C. and I was enthralled. Our guide, Lillian, knows more about art than I will ever learn, and she shared with us in an easy going manner. Many of the paintings we saw were the originals, but we’ve seen the replicas in other museums. We’ve also seen the copies, done by other artists. She was very specific that they only had originals or replicas.
The National Portrait Gallery is in the Old Patent Building, and the third floor has been restored to it’s original configuration. We started there, and I’m glad we did because it’s so modern downstairs, you’d never guess what is upstairs. The building was closed in January of 2000, for a planned 2 year renovation costing $42 million. The two museums it housed got into a fight, Congress got involved, various donors ponied up a ton of money, and when it reopened in July of 2006, they had spent $283 million. Comments, anyone?!
Next, we headed down to the second floor. Lillian would stop at a painting, or someone would ask a question, and off she would go. Our tour was supposed to be 45 minutes and after 90, she said we could leave if we wanted. We only left because we were hungry! She was truly an excellent guide and I’d be happy to share my pages of notes if anyone wants them.
Eliza and I choose the Lime Grill for lunch, a cute local mexican food restaurant, and we were half way through our burritos before we figured out that we were eating each other lunches! So funny. We had been so hungry, we didn’t even notice. We walked around after that, finding Chinatown filled with African Americans and nothing to buy. Lots of men hanging out, commenting on people walking buy, and it didn’t feel good. We even went into the Galleria thinking we could shop there, but it was basically a huge movie theatre. So we headed home.
So we headed home a for a few hours, then hopped back into the car at 7 p.m. so we could go see D.C. lit up at night. The boys still didn’t want to go anywhere, and I really wanted Eliza to see it at night, so in we went. I had been praying about this little jaunt all day, and I really had to talk myself into it. 28 years before I had been assaulted in broad daylight in this area, and I was afraid to go without Dan. But I did it! With a little help, thank you God.
We drove to the Washington Monument first, and it was beautiful to see lit up in the dark. Just beautiful. Then we went closer to the Lincoln Monument, I pulled an illegal u-turn, and we parked. We walked past the Vietnam Vets memorial and up to Lincoln. It’s even great at night! Maybe even more so. There were dozens of other tourists around, which was nice. Eliza and I tried to get good pictures together, to prove that we did it on our own, but they didn’t come out too well, with or without the flash. We sat and and enjoyed the view, watching other people take pictures, then headed back to the car.
We drove down the mall to the Capitol and took pictures there, too. It was warm, the sirens were blaring nearby, and I was enjoying being with my daughter. I had done it! I had brought her here in the dark and we were just fine! Really special to share it with her.