Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Virginia - Day 7 - Four Dollahs Makes You Holla

For the last night of our vacation, we had decided to spend the night at the Holiday Inn in what's known as "Old Town" in Alexandria, VA, so that we could be close to the Reagan Airport for our flight home. We had a little bit of time before our flight, so we decided to take the kids to Arlington Cemetery.

Everybody knows what Arlington looks like. You've seen it in countless movies, such as Saving Private Ryan (which Betty still hasn't seen). But to be there was something different.

The land that became Arlington Cemetery at one point belonged to George Washington Parke Custis, the step-grandson of George Washington. Custis had willed the land to his daughter, Mary Anna Randolph Custis who just so happened to have married Robert E. Lee.

That's right - Robert E. Lee was President George Washington's great-step-granddaughter's husband, and Arlington Cemetery is on his property.

Anyway, at the start of the Civil War, the Union wanted Lee to lead their troops, but he opted to fight for his home state of Virginia which had seceded from the union. Lee's home was abandoned during the war, and Union troops occupied it and used it for their headquarters. As Union troops died, the Union started burying fallen soldiers on Lee's property - partly because they needed a place to bury the dead, and also as an FU to Lee.

We didn't have much time in Arlington so we headed straight for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A military funeral was taking place near one of the pathways that takes you there, so we walked around the cemetery to give the mourners their space. By the way, to our veterans, thank you for your service. We made it to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier right in time for the changing of the guard ceremony. But during the ceremony, Rosie just couldn't last in her stroller anymore. Betty took her out - and Rosie dashed towards the grass. (Betty may have had to step on the grass to grab her.) But don't worry, there weren't any graves around that area. We also saw where JFK was buried.

That was all we had time for, so we drove back towards DC and turned in our Dodge Grand Caravan. I yelled, "It's a rental!" one last time as we pulled into the car return. After all my fretting about vacuuming out the car, they didn't even look to see if it was destroyed inside before handing me my receipt. We could have rolled around in another few boxes of Ritz crackers, cereal and rice cakes and it wouldn't have mattered. Oh what could have been.

The walk from the rental car return to the airport terminal wasn't very long, but we had more luggage than a family of twenty people going on an African safari for two months, and I refused to pay $5 for a cart. I thought we could just walk it. Which we did - in total silence, except for cold stares and the mutterings of "it was just $5."

Look, it's like when we unpack the car after going to the grocery store: I'm carrying everything in on a single trip and I'm not going to ask for help. It's a guy thing.

Inside the Reagan terminal, everybody was packed together like sardines. The terminals are small and circular, and there's less room in there than there is on the Metro on the way back from a Nationals game. I escaped from the mass of unwashed humanity to go get some treats for the kids. And that's when I had the sticker shock of the entire trip: a pack of Skittles cost $4.

I was a captured audience, so what could I do but pay it? And while I was at it, I bought three other bags of candy, for what amounted to one of the largest purchases of the trip. I don't mind paying to fly to DC, rent a car for a week and drive up to Maryland, pay to get into national parks... but paying $4 for Skittles really irked me. This is the Tantrum, so you knew I'd have something to complain about.

The flight back to New Orleans was uneventful, except for when Rosie took one of Peter's souvenirs - his NASA helmet that we got at the National Air and Space Museum - and flung it towards Betty's face, cutting her eye. Betty was in obvious pain, but I couldn't take Rosie because she loves Betty way more than she loves me, and Rosie wasn't having it. So instead Betty gave me the helmet, which I put under my seat, and may... have... forgotten there. I guess we'll have to go back one day to get another one.

In typical Tanory fashion, our baby girl pooped with about an hour left on the flight. There wasn't any way to change her since we encountered a lot of turbulence, so Annie and I just cranked up the air on our side of the aisle and tried to pretend like we didn't know the rest of our family holding the stinky toddler.

On the drive back to Baton Rouge, Annie asked why we don't explore our own city like we did DC. That was an excellent question - actually, it was the very same question that I asked myself after mine and Betty's first trip to New York and DC back in 2006. That question led to the Food Outings that my coworkers and I took every so often, where we went to a new restaurant every week.

So now it's time to put our tourist tendencies to work in Baton Rouge - and even greater Louisiana. We want to take the kids to Avery Island... maybe take a swamp tour. And what does North Louisiana have to offer? Oh wait, they're north of I-10 so they're Yankees, maybe we'll just stay to the south.

I'd like to thank cousin Elizabeth and Dino, Aunt Charlotte and Aunt Jerry for letting us crash at their places and for letting the kids have a safe place to use as a home base for exploring new cities and making new memories. This was a trip that I hope they'll remember a long time.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 02, 2018

Maryland - Day 6 - Danielle Steel's Island of Adventure

On the sixth day of our vacation, we had an important decision to make: should we spend the whole day and night in Maryland and drive into DC in the morning for our return flight home, or should we spend the night near DC which meant leaving Maryland early? It was a three hour drive back to DC, another trip over one of the scariest bridges in the world, we needed to turn in our Dodge Grand Caravan... and what happened if we broke down, hit traffic, or someone's bladder neared its max fill line? Or more likely: what happened if I made another wrong turn in DC that sent us back into a neverending loop of traffic?

We decided to play it safe and rent a hotel room in Alexandria, VA, for the night. So we checked our crab traps one last time, rented a room online, and then did the most Marylandish thing we could think of:

We went to an island of wild horses.

The island in question is called Assateague Island, which is a national park. Upon entering, we made a pit stop at the visitor's center where we loaded up on all the necessary supplies, such as a plush horse for Rosie, which she cuddled and snuggled and OMG IT WAS THE CUTEST THING EVER AND I PROMISED TO BUY HER WHATEVER SHE WANTED.

We had planned on just staying in the car and driving around looking at wild horses, but after only seeing a handful of horses in the distance, we parked on the side of the street and walked around for a bit. After walking over a short hill, we found one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever been on.

Now we should have known that there was a beach there. After all, it's called Assateague Island. But we were just too focused on horses, and not on bathing suits or flip flops. So we weren't dressed for the beach, but we stayed for about thirty minutes and let the kids run around and put their feet in the water. (Or in Peter's case, his feet, legs, torso and head.) We watched people surf and go out on kayaks, and we noticed that the beach goers there were in much better shape than the tourists at the Boardwalk beach.

So just to sum this up: this island had wild horses, fit young people in skimpy clothing, and a beautiful beach. We were basically on a cover of a Danielle Steel novel.

After finally convincing the kids that it was time to go, we started heading back towards DC. Google Maps had three routes for us to choose from, but only one went through Delaware (and saved us nine whole minutes!). I had never been to Delaware before, so I made the executive decision to take that route.

Little did I know, but Delaware is very rural, which I thought made it the most Southern of the Northern states - although Betty says that Dover is an actual city, with city stuff like "things to do" and "other people." And it's pretty small. At 2,489 square miles, Delaware is the second smallest US state by total area. It only took us about an hour to drive through the southern half of the state, and most of what we drove through was rural farmland.

I thought that I'd see the same strip malls and fast food joints like we do in every other city, but Delaware was different. We passed by several red barns that are the idyllic barn that you'd find in a children's book. We saw a lot of corn and what I guess were soybean fields, and a lot of linear move irrigation systems. I liked it. And as an added bonus, we didn't hit any traffic.

Eventually we ended up back in Maryland, where we drove back over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (named one of the scariest bridges in the world), and this time I could stay in the center lane the whole way over since the bridge going back towards DC has three lanes. For me it was a breeze, but Betty said that the view down to the bay was way scarier this time around than the first time. She was genuinely terrified.

From there we went south through DC and into Virginia. Our hotel was in Alexandria, which is one of the oldest cities in the US. Specifically, our hotel was in what's known as Old Town - not to be confused with the fancy new town that the whippersnappers built in the 1800's and later. Old Town was originally a part of Virginia, then ceded to the US government to form part of DC, then given back to Virginia. I had always thought that Alexandria was named after the city in Egypt, but instead it's named after a dude named Philip Alexander that had a lot of land. The main things that we did in Alexandria were eat (at the hotel), swim (at the hotel), and vacuum out all the sand and food from our rental car so that we wouldn't get charged a cleaning fee. It was as if we had taken all the sand from Assateague Island as well as the beach near the Boardwalk, crumbled some Thrasher's fries into the sand, rolled it up with Dumser's ice cream and dumped the remains of a Boog's corndog on it, then rolled around in it in the rental car - over the carpet, up the seats and into the trunk. But after a few dollars worth of a gas station vacuum, we got the van looking like it had only had to withstand an atomic bomb blast while inside a convenience store instead of having to withstand three kids on vacation, which frankly was a big improvement.

So we had started the day in Maryland, drove through Delaware, drove through a few streets of DC and finally made it to Alexandria, Virginia. The kids got to put a checkmark in Delaware and Virginia on their "States I've Been To" map. We saw horses, braved a scary bridge, and never got lost in DC. Not too bad for a day's drive!

Stay tuned for info on our last day!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Maryland - Day 5 - Baywatch

Our fifth day of vacation was mostly spent back at the beach near the boardwalk at Ocean City, Maryland. The day was cloudy but we rented an umbrella and some chairs, and I kept calling our beach helper "Garçon." We're fancy people, after all. Garçon ended up setting up our umbrella right in front of a woman sitting on a blanket. And I mean, right in front of her. We were so close to her that we could alternatingly feel her cold stare and hot hate emanating from the back of our heads.

The sand at Ocean City is denser than what you'd find at Gulf Shores, Pensacola or Destin. The sand always feels wet no matter where you are on the beach, which seemed a little weird at first, but was great for making sand castles, giant forts and mermaid tails. I started to make a mermaid tail for Peter - merman tail? - but ended up making extra long legs. Then we told Rosie to tickle Peter's feet, and she tried to tickle his sand feet. Despite Peter laughing hilariously, she realized that those weren't his real feet, and started destroying the newly built sand legs until she found his real feet.

Another difference between the beach at Ocean City versus the beaches in Alabama and Florida is that Ocean City has life guards on duty. I really liked that. Not only was it safer, but every so often they'd run across the beach (presumably to another life guard station) Baywatch style!

Another beach-goer found a horseshoe crab. The thing was huge. It was my first time seeing a horseshoe crab, and I actually didn't know what it was at first. But my son Peter has been watching YouTube videos by a guy named Coyote Peterson, and Peter knew exactly what it was. He explained to all of the beach-goers what it was, and then all of us adults pretended like we knew: "Oh yeah, a horseshoe crab!" Horseshoe crabs were around prior to dinosaurs, have ten eyes, and the Delaware area is where their largest spawning ground is located. Peter had wanted to take a crab home, but this particular horseshoe crab had died, so that was out of the question. We also probably couldn't have taken it on the plane, unless it had one of those "Emotional Support" dog vests. (A dog with an emotional support dog vest sat by us on our flight to DC - it was a cutie.)

The ocean water was very cold, so we ended up just playing in the shallow area near the shore. This ended up being a good thing. The cloudy weather eventually turned to rain, but before the rain came, the waves picked up. When the waves started picking up, rip tides started occurring. I had warned the kids about rip tides in advance, and taught them what to do in case they felt like they were getting sucked out to sea. Someone actually did get caught up in a rip tide while we were there, the life guards actually saved him, and then they put up double red flags meaning that nobody could go into the ocean.

So we had no choice but to go back to the boardwalk, where we got ice cream from Dumser's Dairyland. Peter wanted sprinkles, and Annie wanted a dip cone - and sprinkles. I didn't think that was possible, but at Dumser's, anything is possible. They didn't have pistachio ice cream, so Betty got a shake - and then made the mistake of sharing it with me. After we demolished our ice cream, we hit up the Sportland arcade again and beat the Pirate's Hook game into submission. It was raining tickets!

Back at Aunt Charlotte's beach house, Charlotte's good friend Jimmy took the kids out to the deck to pull up a crab trap. Checking the crab trap was a favorite activity of the kids - again, mostly because Peter wanted to take one home as a pet. The crabs were Blue Crabs, and it's legal to catch and eat crabs from your own trap up there as long as they're over a certain size. You can tell the difference between the male and female crabs by the color of their claws, and we could tell that the female crabs were fussing at the male crabs: "I told you we shouldn't have come into this trap, but nooo, you didn't listen, you said it would be fine, and now look at us!" I felt for the male crabs.

Horseshoe crabs, ice cream dip cones with sprinkles, game tickets galore, and fit female lifeguards in red spandex running up and down the beach... it had been a fun day in Maryland. We had one more half day in Maryland to go... Stay tuned for more notes from our trip!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Maryland - Day 4 - At the Boardwalk

Our fourth day of vacation was a travel day. It was a three hour drive from Washington, DC, to Ocean Pines, Maryland, but after walking over 50,000 steps the past three days, three hours in the car was a breeze.

The only issue was that, in order to get from DC to Ocean Pines, we needed to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which several travel websites list as one of the scariest bridges in the world. It's apparently so scary that there's a thriving local business that charges drivers $25 to have someone else drive their own car across the bridge. Part of what makes it scary is that it sways in bad weather. There's also little to no shoulder, the railing looks flimsy, and you can see the bay through the railing. And it's actually two separate bridges - you can see one bridge from the other, which for some reason makes it scarier.

On the way from DC to Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge has two lanes. But on the way back, there are three lanes, but one lane goes the opposite way in peak traffic hours. But the scariest thing of all: there's a toll right before you hop on the bridge on the DC side.

I used to never have panic attacks on bridges, but we drove over the condemned bridge in Lake Charles once during a really bad thunder storm, and since then I've hated bridges. Betty made sure to tell me about the bridge well in advance so that I could get all of my panic attacks out of the way up front.

And you know what? After weeks of fretting about it, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was a piece of cake. I kept telling myself that it was just another road. In fact, the Lake Charles bridge as well as the Sunshine Bridge in Donaldsonville, LA, near where we live are way, way worse.

Once we drove past the anti-climactic bridge, it was smooth sailing to Ocean Pines, MD. There we got to spend some time with Betty's aunts, Charlotte and Jerry, which was the entire point of our trip.

Ocean Pines is on the eastern edge of Maryland. Aunt Charlotte's beach house overlooked the Buck Island Pond and Isle of Wight Bay, and across the bay was Ocean City. Ocean City has a three mile long boardwalk filled with arcades, pizza shops, salt water taffy shops, and souvenir shirt stores. And right off the boardwalk is a beach that touches the Atlantic Ocean. Basically, Ocean City was my favorite place ever.

We were still in uber-tourist mode after being in DC for a few days, so hit up the boardwalk in Ocean City. There we experienced Thrasher's Fries, which are served with vinegar. We had hot dogs - Betty got a corndog from a place called Boog's, and you know the food has to be good at a place called Boog's - and then the kids rode some fair rides at Trimper's Rides. It had been so hot in DC, but out near the ocean it was windy and cold, and we weren't dressed appropriately. So Betty and the kids got Ocean City sweatshirts.

We went out to the beach for a bit and just got our feet wet. It started to rain so we headed back to the boardwalk and protected ourselves from the rain by huddling in a candy shop, where we bought tubs of caramel corn, salt water taffy and chocolate. I mean, we had no choice, right?! It was either that or get rained on! Then we made our way to one of the many arcades.

The arcades there are kind of like the video game areas of a Chuck E. Cheese, complete with a shop to trade in tickets for prizes. But whereas you may win one or two tickets at Chuck E. Cheese per play, at the Sportland arcade, you'd win 30 tickets at a time. Each game cost $1, so we weren't planning on staying long - until my kids found the Pirate's Hook game. This is the game where your character is in a boat at the top of the screen and throws his fishing hook down into the sea, and depending on how deep you catch your fish determines how many tickets you win. Well, that game only cost a quarter to play, and the kids could easily score twice as many tickets per game as the more expensive games. So they played this game like kids possessed. I still see visions of my son slapping the button to throw his fishing hook down, while reeling in the line with other hand, laughing maniacally while the tickets churned out. Between the two oldest kids, they won over a thousand tickets easily. They won so many tickets that the game actually ran out of tickets, and I had to tell one of the workers (who promptly fixed it).

Finally, after a long but fun day, we headed back to Ocean Pines and settled in for the night. The remake of Footloose was on TV, and the kids enjoyed watching it. I learned that Footloose takes place in Beaumont, TX, which is one of my least favorite places in the entire world. We hate Beaumont so much that we call it Blowmont. Seriously, the only good thing about Beaumont is that we found a way to drive around it. Footloose will just never be the same for me anymore.

Long story short, Maryland is my new favorite state, and Beaumont sucks.

Stay tuned for more notes from our trip!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

DC - Day 3 - Monu-Mental!

Our second full day in DC was also our last day in DC, so we tried to squeeze in as many happy memories of us yelling at the kids to walk faster so that we could go see as many monuments as humanly possible in one day.

We decided to ditch the car and just take the Metro. I didn't want us to get separated on the Metro, so I took a few deep breaths, held my children close to me, and we all ran on the Metro together while I screamed a war cry at the top of my lungs. Not sure why, but it seemed like the doors wouldn't close prematurely and separate us if I stormed the Metro like I was on Braveheart. Everyone gave us sidelong glances, partly because of my terrified screaming, and partly because we had all decided to wear our LSU shirts and Tiger-bait people wearing clothes from other SEC schools.

We're really country come to town, yall.

Anyway, we took the Metro to L'Enfant Plaza (named after the guy that drew up the street plans for DC), then walked to the Washington Monument. We had seen the Washington Monument from nearly everywhere in DC. It's the tallest building in DC by law so it's hard to miss (similar to how Baton Rouge's capitol building is the tallest building in town by law), but it's also the world's largest Egyptian obelisk. We couldn't go inside because the elevator was getting maintenance, so instead I had to whisper the customary, "Does that make you randy!?" in my most Austin Powers' accent to Betty from outside in the heat.

The Washington Monument, by the way, is at the heart of a five-for-one monument extravaganza. A short walk away from the Washington Monument is the World War II memorial, including a pillar for all the states and a large pool with fountains. After that is the Reflecting Pool, and then the Lincoln Memorial. Then right next to the Lincoln Memorial is the Korean War Memorial.

The kids had seen the Lincoln Memorial in "A Night at the Museum 2" with Ben Stiller, so they knew sort of what to expect. I've been there before. But I have to admit, I teared up a little while reading the Gettysburg Address. The dude had a way with words. It was short, sweet and to the point - very much unlike this blog post. I think the Lincoln Memorial was my favorite monument in DC.

We were hot at that point so needed some AC, and decided to hit up a museum. We passed by the White House on the way to the National Museum of American History, but more importantly, we passed by several ice cream vendors. Peter got a Dove ice cream bar, but Annie got a giant ice cream sandwich, and then it wasn't fair that her ice cream sandwich was bigger than the ice cream bar, so then we had to get another ice cream bar. And then of course I had to introduce the Dad Tax.

The Dad Tax is when I, as the dad, buy something tasty for the kids, and then they owe me a percentage of their food. What better place to explain taxes to the kids than in DC? Peter didn't like that, but Annie is so sweet that she immediately gave up some of her ice cream sandwich. So that's how I know that Peter will be a Republican or Libertarian, and Annie will probably be a Democrat. (Rosie wouldn't share her treats with me - she might be an anarchist.) Betty said she didn't have to share because I wasn't her dad, and therefore she was excluded from the Dad Tax. She's great at finding loopholes - maybe I'll put her in charge of doing our taxes this year.

The National Museum of American History (or what I call the American History Museum) had some really cool stuff. In front of a metallic Star-Spangled Banner exhibit, a military band played the Game of Thrones theme song to the delight of everyone. On the bottom floor we rode a space simulator wearing Virtual Reality goggles, and the ride was basically like the movie Gravity - we were doing a spacewalk on the ISS when all of a sudden some debris hit a solar sail, and then everything started coming apart. It was intense! We saw Kermit the Frog, saw a green suit that Lin-Manual Miranda wore in the Hamilton Broadway play, and walked through a large exhibit about the First Ladies, showing all their china, dresses, etc. The girls especially liked that one.

We went back to the Air and Space Museum, this time spending time in the "space" section. Towards the end of our stay there we went to a show called "Journey to the Stars" at the Planetarium there. It blew me away. Honestly, it was probably my favorite thing in all of DC. If you go to DC, go to the Planetarium.

Our last museum of the day was the National Museum of the American Indian. We didn't see much of this one since we walked in at 5 pm and it closed at 5:30, and our kids were entranced with a video on the top floor. But they have what is apparently a fantastic espresso bar there. Betty asked me to go get some coffee, but the two people behind the counter wouldn't look at me. When I went to leave after standing there like an idiot for five minutes, my way was blocked; I guess the coffee bar closed at 5, and someone had pulled a large metal gate behind me without saying anything to me. So I was literally trapped. First I was really mad about it, like "How dare they do that to me?!" but then I realized that I was the White Man who had taken their land from them, then got ignored the African-American workers who probably had family sold into slavery and who had taken a job at the American Indian museum to sell coffee to white people like me who were probably just going to appropriate everyone's culture anyway, and then I felt better about it. I was able to escape from my metal coffee bar prison, but if I had to, I bet I could have survived on day-old muffins and coffee beans until the next day.

Afterward we took the Metro to meet Elizabeth and Dino at Nationals Park to watch the Nationals play the Orioles. I bought water from kids selling water bottles for a dollar outside the stadium. I mean, that's cheaper than at a store! And $5 cheaper than in the stadium! I also learned something about the DC sports culture that night: nobody is really from DC, so nobody really cares if the team wins or loses. For instance, we were surrounded by guys in orange Baltimore Orioles shirts, and yet no Nationals fan tried to shank them with a knife, spit on them, call them names or throw batteries at them. If we had been in New Orleans at a Saints game, there'd have at least been some voodoo dolls getting poked with needles. But no, everybody was friendly, as if the Nationals winning or losing wouldn't have a lifelong lasting effect on their mental well-being.

We stayed until the end of the 6th inning, when our kids just couldn't go anymore. On the way back on the Metro, Peter needed to go to the bathroom. For some reason, it came about that Betty knew the exact time and whereabouts of everyone's last time to go the restroom. It was insane. It was a skill that I didn't know she had, but apparently a lot of moms possess this innate pee tracking instinct. I didn't even know the last time that I had gone to the restroom, but I bet if I had asked Betty, she would have known not only where and when I went, but what I had drank that would have made me need to go. I was impressed - and to be honest, a little turned on.

We ended the day back at Elizabeth's house, with 22K FitBit steps. Those are Disney World numbers. It was a long, hot, fun day in DC. We were so tired that we didn't even play Dominoes, but I bet if we did, I'd have come in last place.

Stay tuned for more! Next up: Ocean City, Maryland.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

DC - Day 2 - That's So Washington

Our first full day in DC started at Union Station. We got there by Dodge Grand Caravan and not the Metro, since my neurosis kept me up at night thinking that Betty and I would get separated from the kids on the Metro.

I get my neurosis from my mom. As my brother would say, "Way to go, Mom."

We went to Union Station to meet up with our Duck Boat tour from DC Ducks. Our Duck Boat's name was the Lame Duck, and our tour guide was Capt. Steve. If you've never been on a Duck Boat before, they're amphibious vehicles that were developed for World War II as a way to quickly move cargo onto shore. The army originally ordered them, then didn't want them, and only after a Duck boat saved some stranded Coast Guardsmen did the army reconsider. They were mostly made by women (think "Rosie the Riveter") who took such great pride in their work that many Ducks are still in use today despite only supposed to have lasted a single combat tour. We drove around the capital, seeing the White House, the capitol building, Washington Monument, the World War II memorial, the Lincoln Memorial - even making a few left turns, amazingly - then rode through the Potomac River near the Pentagon. All three kids got to get behind the wheel and steer for a bit in the Potomac.

So the Lame Duck lasted through World War II, the Korean War, driving around DC and letting my kids drive it. What a machine!

Capt. Steve gave us a brief history of a few sites in DC, starting with Union Station. Union Station was originally designed in the model of a Roman bath house. Inside are Roman statues that were intended to be guards about to get into the bath - meaning, they were naked except for helmets and capes (which is basically a Saturday night at the Tanory house). Once the statues went on display, shields were added in front of each statue to hide their mentula (which is Latin for wangs). But if you look at the right angle, legend has it that you can still see a Roman dong today. The ladies stole a glance, and between giggles reported that it must have been cold when the statues were carved.

While on our tour, a huge demonstration of mostly Chinese protestors marched in front of the capitol to protest the Chinese government's persecution of Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong. Falun Dafa is apparently a spiritual practice that combines meditation and exercises with moral philosphy centered on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. I guess it's like Chinese yoga, but without the stretchy pants that make your butt look good. I'm not sure why they were protesting at the US capitol - maybe they were hoping that the US could do something about it, or were just trying to get attention - but it temporarily impeded our Duck Boat tour. As Capt. Steve put it, "A demonstration at the capitol stopping the Duck Boat tour? That's so Washington."

While we waited for a parade of peaceful protestors to march by us, a white, bearded guy in a suit and helmet holding a briefcase zoomed by us on an electric scooter. Capt. Steve's words were in my head: "That's so Washington."

After our Duck Boat tour ended, we ate at the historical and culturally important McDonald's at Union Station. Then it was off to our first museum of our trip...

The Postal Museum.

I'll admit, I wasn't excited about the Postal Museum. But Betty wanted to go to score some free postcards. And just as we were about to leave, we saw something that really got the kids excited: the guns that Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr used when they dueled. Our kids have been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, and to see the guns... well, that was special.

After the Postal Museum, we got one of many ice cream bars that day to try to stay cool and hydrated. DC is hot and humid, mostly due to the hot air coming out of Congress but also just due to the climate.

Next we hit up the National History Museum. The National History Museum is one of my favorites. It's got the dinosaur bones, mummies, a narwhal exhibit, gemstones, and all kinds of stuffed animals (as in, taxidermy, not toys). It's basically what I think of when I think of a museum. My son was impressed, but my oldest daughter didn't like the fact that all those animals had been stuffed and put on display for our amusement. I kept trying to tell her that it was for our education, but she wouldn't agree until I bought her more ice cream.

After that we toured the National Gallery of Art. We saw a Da Vinci, some beautiful Monets, a couple of Renoirs, a Degas, a bust of Lorenzo de' Medici, and - Betty's favorite - some of Mary Cassatt's work. The kids didn't hate it, but they didn't really appreciate it. But we did. We realized that, not only were these works of art beautiful and historically important, but they were also very expensive. In fact, the National Gallery of Art is heavily guarded. There's a guard in every room, and if you get too close to any of the art work, you'll get a fussin' and I assume a taserin'. Basically the guards at the National Gallery of Art are the Secret Service of museum workers. Don't mess around with them.

It was about 4:30 when we got out of the National Gallery of Art. Everything in DC closes around 6 pm, and we had some time to kill before we needed to get back to our van - the parking garage closed at 7 pm but we didn't want to get there too early so that we could avoid the crazy DC traffic - so we popped into the National Air and Space Museum for a few minutes. We looked at more of the "air" stuff this day (space stuff came later), and spent the remaining time at the children's play area while I sat in the corner and charged my phone, so that we could use the GPS on the way back to my cousin Elizabeth's house.

When we got back to Elizabeth's, I had managed 18K steps on my FitBit. My software developer legs just aren't made for that kind of walking. We were hungry, so Elizabeth used Uber Eats to bring us Ethiopian food. If that's no so Washington, then I don't know what is.

Then the kids wanted ice cream. Specifically, pistachio ice cream. But we just couldn't walk anymore.

We ended our day by playing Dominoes again. I sat out the first game, then subbed in for Betty once our baby girl Rosie needed to go to bed. Betty was in second when I took over for her, but I somehow managed to come in last again. By the time I picked up the Dominoes (as was my job since I was the loser), everyone else was asleep - probably dreaming about eating Dove ice cream bars in a Monet painting while dinosaur fossils roamed in the background.

Stay tuned for DC Day 3!

Monday, June 25, 2018

DC - Day 1 - Unleash the Fury!

We just back from a family vacation, and I want to tell you all about it. But I have to warn you, this story is not for the faint of heart. In true Tanory fashion, this tale involves a few wrong turns, naked roman soldiers, an explosion in outer space, a lost tooth, the most dangerous bridge in the world, wild horses, a pirate's hook, a giant graveyard, and a pack of $4 Skittles.

But let's start at the beginning.

Betty and I wanted to take the kids to see her aunts up in Dover, Delaware. Delaware, besides being the first state to ratify the constitution, is also famous for that Wayne's World sketch where they can't think of anything to do in Delaware. I was up for anything, especially since we love Betty's aunts and I had never been to Delaware, but Betty's aunts offered to meet us instead at their beach house near Ocean City, Maryland. Who could say no to that? So off we went!

On our way up to Maryland, we made a multi-day pit stop in Washington, DC, where we stayed with my beautiful, smart, classy, good-at-dominoes, she-let-all-of-us-stay-at-her-place-for-free cousin Elizabeth and her fiance Dino. You may remember Elizabeth from her blog Liz in Mali, which is a fantastic read if you haven't checked out her blog. (It's definitely worth your time!)

To get to DC we flew non-stop with Southwest. When we landed at Reagan airport, another flight to Chicago had just been cancelled, and their plane was still sitting in our spot. We had to wait thirty minutes for the plane to move. And during that time, my youngest daughter soiled her diaper with a stench so terrible that we almost had to evacuate the plane. The oxygen masks almost dropped. People thought there had been a gas attack (there kind of was) and were sucking air from the top vents, but lucky for us, the plane started taxiing before the flight attendants could unfurl the emergency exit slide. (Pooping on the plane is a recurring theme. It's a Tanory thing.) We blamed the stench on a couple of foreigners who didn't speak English, and stormed off the plane as if offended.

We needed a car on our trip, so we rented a Dodge Grand Caravan. I'd like to suggest that you get a Grand Caravan if you ever anticipate driving near DC, just because the thing is like a tank and DC traffic is horrible. Seriously, according to the TomTom Traffic Index, DC's traffic congestion is the 9th worst in the US (only a few spots above Baton Rouge - although we think BR's traffic is more annoying). We could have done with a smaller vehicle, but we needed the back row so our kids could sit in separate aisles. It would have been a much longer trip with them sitting next to each other. Whenever we needed to hop a curb or fit through a tight space, I'd yell, "It's a rental!" Kudos to my Uncle Jim (Elizabeth's dad) for creating that catchphrase years ago in Seattle. I still remember it and love it, and have been patiently biding my time to use it. I used it early and often.

Driving in DC aged me. Apparently the way to my cousin's house took all the left turns possible in DC, while only a third of them had left turn lights. I also took several wrong turns. Betty was navigating and told me the correct way to go, but I either didn't feel comfortable changing lanes fast enough or was too worried about hitting a pedestrian or person on a bike / scooter / skateboard / Segway to make the turn, that I sent us on unexpected detours more than I'd like to admit. I think we went into Virginia at least twice. But it was cool, our Grand Caravan had unlimited miles.

While driving on Piney Branch Road - which may or may not have been on the original GPS path to Elizabeth's house - Peter lost a tooth. He wanted to know if the tooth fairy would be able to find him. I told him that of course the tooth fairy could find him! And once the tooth fairy found us, he or she could tell us how to get to Elizabeth's house.

Finally Betty yelled, "Just drive like you're in New Orleans!" and then I snapped back to reality, making several left turns from the right-most lanes, sometimes when the light wasn't red, and often but not always on all four wheels.* Our Grand Caravan had a California license plate, so my apologies to the Californians who are now derided as idiot drivers in DC.

Despite the lack of left turn lights, the street layout of DC is magnificent and we really enjoyed our driving tour of the city. We learned that Pierre Charles L'Enfant was tasked by George Washington to design the basic plan for Washington, DC. He designed a grid with long, cross-cutting avenues, which makes it possible to see beautiful architecture and monuments from a distance. L'Enfant was eventually fired because he couldn't get along with anybody, but the city he designed is fantastic. I'm sure he didn't realize that left turn lights would be the bane of the city hundreds of years later, so we'll forgive him.

After making it to Elizabeth's house, my kids went into "What have you done for me lately?" mode and demanded food. It's like they think they need to be fed every day or something.** So we put my two year old Rosie in one of those leashes that were all the rage years ago but are not in vogue anymore, and headed out to Timber Pizza. It was our first time to use the leash, and we got a lot of weird stares from people, but as I explained with a grin and a shrug, "We're from Louisiana." That seemed a good enough explanation to most people.

You can't have pizza without ice cream, so afterward we went to Lulabelle's Sweet Shop. I got the pistachio ice cream, and despite my kids yelling, "Ugh! Pistachio ice cream?!?!" they loved it. It's literally all they talked about for the rest of the trip. Everywhere we went, they'd go, "Do they have pistachio ice cream there?" It almost became our trip's catch phrase, so I had to keep yelling, "It's a rental!" to make sure that stuck.

On our way back from ice cream, we played at one of the many public playgrounds in DC. It was beautiful: The sun was just setting, fireflies were lighting up the playground, and the smell of our leftover pizza was wafting through the air. Back at Elizabeth's house, I met one of her neighbors and asked what I thought was a witty question, "Are you a Republican or a Democrat?" I was just kidding of course - I was trying to be politically humorous although I realize that's a terrible joke. But the joke was on me: 76% of people who live in DC are Democrats. (17% have no party affiliation, 1% are Green, Libertarian are a fraction of a percent, and the other 6% are the Trump administration.)

We ended the night with a game of Dominoes. I've only stacked Dominoes and knocked them down, but apparently there are actual games that you can play. Elizabeth kicked our butts. I came in last, but not for a lack of trying. The Dominoes came to symbolize our trip. We knocked out items on our To Do List just like we knocked down Dominoes (read: Betty kept everyone in line and we only got anything done because of her elite time management skills).

Here are the day's footnotes, since some jokes need to be explained (which makes them less funny). Such are the times that we live in.

* Mom and/or any rental car claim agents reading this, it's a joke. We drove very safely and never ran any red lights. We only almost hit someone once, and it was their own damn fault, because who doesn't cross a road without looking?!? (Apparently everyone in Washington, DC.)

** Mom and any government officials reading this, that was also a joke.

Stay tuned for Day 2.