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!