Saturday, October 2, 2010

Spending 9/11 in Washington, DC.

View from Ft. Meyer-Henderson Hall.

Living in the DC area isn’t what you would imagine. You don’t always go into the city even though you live there. And you don’t think of driving a few miles to a hotel as much of a vacation.

But it can be.

We hadn't intended to spend the weekend in the city as politics gets on my last nerve, and we figured that the 9/11 weekend would be freighted with babbelry and nonsense. No self-respecting politician would miss an opportunity to opine to the throngs, even on what should be a sacred day. This being the distinguishing feature of politicians in general, a decided lack of reverence for all things we citizens hold dear.

Still, the nice weekends of the year were dwindling and the weather was beautiful, so we decided to go for it and put on our political blinders.

Alexandria is a beautiful setting from which to visit the city. You get to sit across the river from the pundits and still enjoy the view…can’t hear the foolishness…not even an echo, and it's a quick metro ride to the Mall.

You forget that American does have beautiful architecture, large boulevards and that old country charm. Getting away from it all can be as simple as driving across the bridge to Alexandria and finding that quaint get-away.

Lucky for me, as retired military, I have the advantage of booking in to military lodging. It isn’t cheap, but it is very private, quiet and relaxing. We stayed at Henderson Hall, and as you can see from the picture, it is completely devoid of the cold and modern new-mellenia stylings of today's buildings.

That is exactly why I love it.

A glass of Harvey’s on our second story veranda in the evening was so enjoyable as to make the whole weekend a delight. The setting is that idyllic.
Then, of course, there is the obligatory trapsing to the Smithsonian, the White House and other attractions. You think it will be boring and that because you've been there before and done that, that somehow you will be woefully unimpressed. What a delight to find out that it is as thrilling to visit the Smithsonian (any part of it) on subsequent occasions as it was (or will be ) on your first.

They say familiarity breeds contempt...I'm inclined to believe that this premise holds true only if the thing you're becoming familiar with was contemptible in the first place.
While politics and those who practice it may fall from our favor, grand cities are a joy forever. and Washington, DC is no exception. For the mix of charm and grandeur, I rank it up there with other cities I have visited; Heidelberg, Berlin, Paris.
And while it is true some parties I won't mention (whose initals start with "T") did try to comandeer this solemn weekend, they were unsuccessful. Nature and good sense conspired to deminish their effect and appeal. Raining at the right moment, and becoming cloudless almost on cue, as crowds failed to gather. In fact, there wan't even a mention on the news. And though the entire Mall had been set up and prepared with tents and porta Ps, only a handful of people actually showed up.
Maybe Americans are more politically savvy then they get credit for. I was happy to see that the crowd was smaller than my Christmas party last year. Well done America. Maybe if we ignore them, they will go away.
One can only hope.
As for our weekend, it was a great success.  Just the right mix of relaxation and tourism.

I  almost forgot. No vacation is complete without a picture of the dog.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Weekend in Shenandoah National Park

When you find yourself in the area, this is definitely worth a day or two of your time. Don’t know if you will want to stay in the park or out of the park. Lodgings are cheaper outside the park, but then you have quite a drive to get to any of the sites you want to see. And there are lots.

Check out the National Park Service website at:

The park stretches for 105 miles from near the town of Front Royal in the northeast to near the city of Waynesboro in the southwest and is well known for the visual treats of Skyline Drive. Also, a well known part of the park is over one hundred miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Here you’ll find lots of mushrooms, camping, wildlife great dining and all the solitude you want…if you want it.

We stayed at the Skyland Resort, and to be honest, I have mixed feelings about this place. The setting is spectacular though and if you want to be in the park and in the mountains…there is just no other place to be.

Unfortunately, this once fabulous resort has seen better days.

There are no phones in the rooms, not even just to call the front desk, which is a little bit of a hike from your lodging. Also, be warned that most cell service is pretty bad in the mountains. I have T-mobile and didn’t get any reception at all, but I saw other folks with other servers not getting any better reception.

The light between the beds was flashing on and off, suggesting a short in the electrical wiring, and the old heaters worked, but made such strange popping noises that we were afraid to leave them on. The electrical outlet near the coffee pot was loose and seemed it might pull out of the wall.

Let me say this though, when I told the front office of my concerns about the room, they were very helpful and promptly gave me a discount.

Back to cell phones, remember when hiking in the park that if you get in over your head on a hike, you won’t be able to call anyone. Most of the trails get a fair amount of traffic, so someone would find you and get help for you, but don’t count on your phone when you are in the wilderness.

There are lots of great things to see. I saw deer, skunk, wild turkey, trees and vistas that are worth the drive all by themselves.

And now to the food at the Skyland Lodge restaurant:
Smogged out views...too bad, but still beautiful.

This menu is worth the drive alone. You will not believe the quality of the food at what I call reasonable prices. We are not talking about your basic meat and veggies. I am talking about a cook that knows that the word is sauté, not slaughter, who understands the delicate blend of herbs that make life worth living. The best meat, fish and fowl dishes prepared to perfection…yes perfection. How often have you found a real restaurant…not a pre-fab or a knock off of a franchise? This is the real deal.

Definitely worth the trip but be prepared to pay for it.

Take your dog, but don't forget the leash.

Friday, August 27, 2010

It's Friday...let's be philosophical.

Tips to live by...

If you wake up, get up. The day will happen.

Make your feet happy...walk on the beach.

Never fall in love with a bitch...she will eventually try to eat you.

Never fall in love with an asshole...he'll eventually shit on you.

There is something annoying about happy people...lets get out there today and just annoy the hell out of everyone.

A thing of a joy forever.

You don't get better at something by NOT doing it.

Some people dream of being happy...and some people just get out there and make it happen.

And if you need to get out of a foul mood here are some of my favorite videos to snap you out of it...

He was injured...injured bad.

Weasel on the town

You probably can't watch these videos at work.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

US Coast Guard, National Maritime Center

Those of you, who know me, know how much I love the water, so it should be no surprise that I now work for the US Coast Guard. Yes, The Department of Homeland Security, the real Coast Guard.

But I am very proud to be a part of the Coast Guard, especially here at the National Maritime Center. It’s a great job, and the people I work with are a joy to be around. The work I do feels important to me, and necessary for our country. That feels good…and everyone should have a job that feels good.

Not to put down the other services, but in my many years in the military I have worked with them all in some way or other, and I have to say this assignment is my best so far. I have not found any other service to be more professional, dedicated or just plain gentlemanly. The men and women of the Coast Guard are the grownups we all wish our children could be some day.

A brave heart is a necessity for our security, and you won’t find that lacking in the Coast Guard. It may be America’s smallest military service in terms of numbers, but they have the biggest responsibility…do it all, and do it well.

They put themselves in harm’s way everyday not only in war, but in peace too. They are out there every day fighting our wars, saving our lives and protecting our resources. They don’t just protect our coasts; they are everywhere and are often the unsung heroes of the day.

Well, not today.

Thank you; to the men and women of the United States Coast Guard.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Major Issues 13 July 2010

Click title for Video link

Major Issues Featuring Debbie Dean

Retired Army Major Debbie Dean provides commentary and updates on daily news stories from around the web and around the world.