US Road Trip 2017, Day 10. 

Back on the road again. Today was another one of those Point A to Point B travel days. 

I left Bethesda heading north, opposite the flow of the morning rush hour, and made my way up to NY.  The run through all the historic places along route 15 in Maryland and Pensylania made me want to stop several times. The signs for Gettysburg also had me. But, I persevered. 

For the most part, the drive was nice. I love driving in the mountains. When you’re pulling a hill, and the V8 in the truck is whinning, and your ears pop, that’s when you know your in hill country. The run north through Pennsylvania and New York was all driving in the mountains. It was good. 

Clarification. The driving was good. The roads were horrendous. From the Northeast Extension in PA, pretty much all the way north on I-81 to Watertown, NY, was road construction. Pennsylvania had tore up Road being rebuilt. New York had miles of cones out at a time for some ditch job or ramp repaving job. It basically sucked bad. 

The green dense trees and the vertical change helped to make up for it. By the time I got into the ST Lawrence River Valley, I was okay again. 

I came north, or home I should say, to spend a couple days with my mom and dad, and hangout with friends. I’m sure it will be a good time. 

Rolling into the hometown of Potsdam, New York, I pulled up at my usual home away from home, The Northern Family Motel. I always stay here when I’m in town. The Motel is clean and neat, and the rates are super reasonable. They have a fabulous breakfast spread. They also have an awesome staff. Eric, the owner, is a high school friend of mine. I think he’d be offended if I stayed anywhere else at this point. Hahahaha. Seriously, if you’re passing through this way, you should give them a try. 

From the Motel, it was out of find food. As any local knows, the first stop is Jreck’s Subs. It’s a Northern New York institution. Ham and cheese on wheat, extra hot peppers. 

After food I stopped at the Local Elk’s Lodge (Lodge #2074) to sign in and see as many people as I could. It wasn’t a long commute, as the lodge is all of a good 100 feet around the corner from the sub shop. To get inside I had to ring the front door bell. I forgot my membership card in my bag. Inside, it was good and full as Wednesday night is dinner night at the lodge as well as Golf League night. I made the rounds and promised everyone I’d be back out tomorrow night. But it was a long drive, so I wasn’t gonna start the party just yet. 

Even going someplace you know well can be an adventure, at times.

Breakfast on the road. 

Every time I drive by the sign for FT Indiantown Gap, it makes me smell. Good memories from the Army Reserve in that place.

Driving in the mountains. 


US Road Trip 2017, Day 9.

The fourth and last day of sightseeing in Washington DC was very good. I admit that I walked off my feet again, but it was worth it.

Once again, I caught the Shuttle from the hotel to the Metro, and the Metro into the city. The Metro was not as congested as it was yesterday and it made for nicer ride. 

The Blue Line of the Metro has a stop at the Arlington Cemetery. And once up the escalators, it’s a simple walk up about a block and across the street. 

If you’re planning a full-on visit to the cemetery, I suggest taking the tour. The tour is a tram tour around the cemetery. It hits all of the highlight items that everyone wants to see. It is also hop-on, hop-off, so you can spend more time in specific places. 

The Cemetery has a free App, downloadable from the stores. The App is quite nice and has a lot of available information. If you get it for the map alone, the map given out with the tour tells you all you really want to know.

The Cemetery is active. There were 26 funerals conducted today. I stood quietly and respectfully as one passed me by. That is important to remember after a couple days of monuments and museums that this is an active place and one needs to be respectful of that.

After the Cemetery experience, I walked the broad avenue that leads back to Washington DC. The walk across the Arlington Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River gives great views. It brings you up against the back of Lincoln Memorial. 

Coming around the Lincoln Memorial from back to front is like going from quiet lawn garden to raucous house party. The Memorial  is busy, but easy to get in and out of. It is also designed to be viewed by a lot of people. It’s massive and open and welcoming. I grabbed some pictures and was on my way.

Walking along the side of the Reflecting Pool led me to realize that it was definitely not meant to be used as a pool. Let’s just say it had a little growth in it. Nevertheless, it was a nice day, and a nice walk.

There was a stop at the east end of the Reflecting Pool to view the World War II Memorial. It was a bit of a look-see to figure out the theme of it, but it was a very nice Memorial. 

The walk continued on to the Washington Monument. It’s big. It’s elegant. It’s iconic. It’s also closed for repairs. Such is the way of things. I would assume that it received damage from the 2011 earthquake, the way the National Cathedral did. I grabbed some pictures of it as well. 

After the Washington Monument there was some more walking around before it was back to the Metro. The Blue Line, Smithsonian Metro station, is only about 3 blocks from the Monument and easy to access. The route took me back up the Blue Line to the Red Line, and back to Bethesda. It was a good day!

The day ended with Fish Tacos. I had dinner with my good friend Beth at Fish Taco. The blackened fish tacos were very good, as was the company.  Now, some shark week or the Tottenham v  Roma match. Tomorrow, back on the road. 

Arlington holds more than just military men. 

There are many famous military men as well. 

Mr Lincoln. Surrounded by a throng of people below the frame.

The Washington Monument. 


US Road Trip 2017, Day 8.

Today consisted of walking my feet off. My goal in life today was to see the old masters. They had to be somewhere in DC. Turns out they are in DC, at the National Gallery of Art. 

Now, the Gallery opens at 11:00am, so I figured I’d head to the Smithsonian Natural History Mussum first, because it opened an hour earlier. 

I was at the Metro and headed into the city at 9:15am. The weekend work crews were no more, so I was on the Metro at the hotel drop off point and headed for the center of liberty.  

I have had a prime complaint since I have been in DC. I can’t find a Metro map that has the Metro lines and the street names where the stops are. It’s super aggravating. This being said, I overshot by two stops and had to walk back down the Mall to the Natural History Museum. 

The Smithsonian NHM is a great place. The collections are well presented and very neatly put together. My one complaint would be, with such a vast collection I would have thought they’d have more comprehensive exhibits. Nevertheless, it was a good experience. 

After a picture of the Hope Diamond, I was on my way down the street to the National Gallery of Art. This place is impressive! Impressive! I love the Old Masters, and the have the Old Masters. The have the only Da Vinci in the Western Hemisphere. The have a good amount of Rubens, Van Dyck, Botticelli, and Titian. They have two rooms of Rembrandt. Absolutely a fabulous collection. 

Not having walked enough, I decided to walk back across the Mall to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I am happy I made the effort. The displays at the Museum are absolutely worth your time. They’re collections goes from The Spirit of ST Louis to Space Ship One. They have good WW II collections and good Rocket exhibits. The Apollo Gallery is outstanding. 

I took in the Dark Universe showing at the Einstein Planetarium. It was great. I enjoyed a presentation that wasn’t strictly constellations and planets. 

Leaving the Air and Space Museum right at closing time, I headed back to the Metro. The Metro, even st 5:30pm rush hour, was easily navigatable. I made my way back to Bethesda with little issue. 

Dinner and a few drinks at the hotel, and it was feet up. I’m done, son! 

More tomorrow. 

The largest nut on earth. From a coconut tree, somewhere.

The Hope Diamond. 

A Rembrandt self portrait.

The Spirit of ST Louis. 


US Road Trip 2017, Day 7.

Day 2 of Washington DC was … wait for it …. awesome! 

Got out of bed without the phone alarm again. Used a bottle of Mountain Dew for breakfast, and had a nice quick walk around the hotel grounds. 

I was picked up by Beth, my tour guide and driver (She’s gonna kill me when she reads this.) and headed out to the Smithsonian. 

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, is located at 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, in Chantilly, Virginia. It is located in a section of the Duelles Airport, and consists of the Boeing Aviation Hanger and the James S. McDonnell Space Hanger. 

The hours are 10:00 to 5:30pm daily, except Christmas. Admission is FREE. Yes, I said free. But, parking is 15.00 dollars, or free after 4:00pm. 

The museum is …. chocker-block full of aircraft, expiremental aircraft, rockets, spacecraft, and other related items, to the point that it’s almost overwhelming. It’s full to the point that things are hard to get pictures of. The host of items on display would fill several normal museums. Its good that they give out maps. 

The upside is that things in the museum are very well labeled. The staff is also knowledgeable and friendly. The museum gives free tours of the hanger floors, pretty much on the half hour. The tour guides also don’t seem to be offended if you stop and listen in for a couple minutes and then move on. 

Where the museum has almost every conceivable rocket and airplane you would ever want to look at, it does have a couple of stand out pieces.  The freshly restored Enola Gay, B29 Superfortress is piece number one. The bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb is stationed in the middle of the hanger floor, on the left wing of the hanger. The plane is in amazing condition. The restoration work (which I have heard was the most extensive restoration that the Smithsonian has done) is fantastic. It is surrounded by numerous other aircraft, which makes it hard to get a picture of, but it is easily viewable.

The second standout piece would be an SR-71, Blackbird. The Blackbird is located in the middle of the museum and is the centerpiece for the hanger floor. It is in outstanding condition, and is easily photographed. 

Directly behind the Blackbird, and the centerpiece of the Space Hanger is the Space Shuttle Discovery. The Space Shuttle has an appearance where they appeared to give it less preparation before display, leaving it with a used-in-Space feel to it. The look is very genuine and somehow draws you to it, emotionally. Once again, there is enough stuff in the Space Hanger where it is a little hard to photograph just the Space Shuttle, but it is super easy to view. You can literally walk underneath it around its tail. You feel closer to the Shuttle than you do other pieces on display. 

Where those are the must-see pieces, this is much more. A Russian Mig-21 holds one end of the jet fighter display wing, while a X35 Joint Strike Fighter holds the other end. Beyond the Enola Gay is the Concorde. In its shadow is the Red Bull Stratos Capsule. And the list goes on and on. You could go every day for a week and not see everything there is to see.

After a second go around and a big stop at the gift shop, it was out the door and back into traffic. The drive from the hotel in Bethesda and the Air and Space Museum at the Duelles Airport is about half of an hour. That’s if traffic isn’t too heavy. If there is a lot of congestion, the drive time can increase greatly. 

There was a little crash time. Ended up watching the Real Madrid v Manchester United match on ESPN. Then, out for dinner at Chop’t with Beth. After dinner … Shark Week. 

See you tomorrow!

Yours truly, standing in front of the SR-71 Blackbird. 

The Space Shuttle Discovery. Taken from the second floor observation deck. 

The B-29 Super Fortress, Enola Gay. 


US Road Trip 2017, Day 6.

The first day of exploring D.C. Was great! 

I got up without the alarm clock dragging me forth. In other words, I slept in. Hahahaha A long stand in the shower and a shave later I was emotionally ready to tackle the day. 

The Marriott Suites that I am staying at has a free shuttle to the Metro. It’s super convenient. 

The Section of the Red Line that I am on is under weekend construction, so once we were at the Metro station  we had to take a shuttle down the line a couple stations to get back on active track.  Sounds crazy, but it was super easy! The Metro had loads of people out answering questions as well. 

So, it was the Red Line in to the American University stop, and then the 30-series bus south about 1 1/2 miles to the National Cathedral.  The National Cathedral is absolutely amazing. It is a cut stone monument to the abilities of people with vision. And, it is an absolutely beautiful building.

I ended up having a great conversation about the state of the world with my new friend Andy. Andy has worked at the Cathedral for 18 years, and possessed a kin insight into the state of man. I’m continually reminded that the world is full of amazing people. In our conversation regarding the Cathedral and its place in the ranks of the great churches Andy summed it up as “It is the equal of any Cathedral in Europe, except for its age.” I tend to agree with Andy! It really is like no other Cathedral I have seen in America. It is worth the tour. 

I don’t take time to walk the gardens, which were extensive, but there is time for that another day. I did pause in the Shepards Chapel and say a prayer for the health of my parents. It is something I do at every church I visit. The fact that the Shepards chapel is located in the crypt made me laugh. 

The Cathedral actually has 3 chapels in the crypt. The first one I’ve seen like this. I chose the Shepards Chapel because it was small and quiet. It seemed the most comforting. 

From the Cathedral, it was back to the bus stop. I jumped back on the 30-series bus, 31N I think, and headed for the National Mall. Not knowing where I was going, I jumped off to consult a map. No map at the bus stop, but a good BBQ place across the street. So, it was lunch in Georgetown. The BBQ joint was called Old Glory. Good food and decent prices. The place was also an old building, which was cool. 

Moving on again, it was back on the bus. Wrong bus, but basically the right direction. Instead of the Mall, I ended up on the backside of the White House. I also ended up under blackening skies. By the time I made my way down to the Washington Momument there were great big rain drops fallling from the sky. Big, cold, rain drops falling from the sky. I took a picture from across the street and headed it for the Metro.

Of course, by the time I made it back to the hotel I had stopped raining. It was okay, I was done anyway. TIRED!!

I got woken up from the nap I didn’t know I was taking by a dinner text. My friend/tour guide, Beth, pushed back dinner due to the pounding rain. Yup, more rain!

Dinner was decided in the car. I got to pick, so Thai food. We went to a place called Tara Thai, in Bethesda. The food was good and had a good staff. The atmosphere was new and trendy, and reminded me more of a sea food restaurant. But, it was tasty Thai food!

After dinner festivities included a short walk to Barnes and Noble. Things I learned at B&N:

You can buy a detective field kit.

Image released 5 volumes of Sunstone. None of which I possess (YET)!

You can write a children’s book that contains less than 2 paragraphs of words ….. and get published. 

You can print a magazine about Anything!!

After that, it was back to the awesome hotel to chill. Bed coming soon tonight. 

Live. See. Enjoy. 

My chariot to the Metro station.

The decent into Metro. 

The National Cathedral.

The space window. It holds a piece of moon rock brought back from Apollo. 

The Washington Monument. You can’t see the HUGE raindrops falling, but they were. 


US Road Trip 2017, Day 5.

Today was another one of those Point A to Point B days. I wanted to get from Pigeon Forge up to Bethesda, MD at a reasonable time. The hotel had limited amounts of oversized vehicle parking, and the truck won’t fit in the hotel’s parking garage. Also, the D.C. Traffic can be BAD! 

The drive into the city area wasn’t bad at all. I love driving through the mountains, so the run up through Virginia was excellent. There was a haze for most of the day, but it didn’t ruin the views. 

The traffic didn’t turn horrible until about the Centerville area. From that point in to I-495 and then north up to Democracy Boulevard was much more stop than go. I mean ugh! 

The hotel, the Marriot Suites, which is awesome, ended up having a parking spot for the truck. Yeah! And I’m full chil for a couple hours before exploring.

This is also the first multi-day stop. I’m going to spend a couple days exploring the Washington DC area, and seeing what there is to see. I imagine I will also be making a list of things I want to see next time I’m here. I usually always assume I’m going back to a city. That way I don’t try and shove too much in to too small a time window. Enjoy what you’re seeing, and see the rest later. That’s my Motto! 

I’ve lined up a good looking tour guide for part of it, so it should be fun! Speaking of tour guides, I just got back from dinner, and then a wild frozen yogurt trip, with my good friend Beth and her two girls. It was a great time! Lesson learned: toppings and sauces are not the same thing and need to be negotiated separately! 

Driving in the Virginia mountains. Cruisin. 

The Potomac River. Really thought there’d be more water. 


US Road Trip 2017, Day 4.

Today started with procrastination. I mild desire to stay in bed saw me out the door an hour later than planned. And, on the road a half-hour later than planned.

Once again, the day started at the Waffle House. Bacon, eggs, and coffee was followed by a trip to the gas station. Sadly, the gas station was over capacity, so I moved on down the road. 

At the north end of Anniston, curiosity got the better of me. I decided to take a small side trip into old FT McClellan and have a look-see. I kind of bumbled my way around old post for a bit. I could locate the starships over in the old training area easily, and didn’t have time to get really lost. I was in and old of the old Sumerall Gate off Route 21. 

Moving north again, I made my way up through AL, into north GA, and into TN. Running through the mountains was NICE! It was damned good to find some elevations change, for a change. Texas has nothing resembling mountains! I let the V8 in the truck howl it’s way up one hill after another …. until I got about halfway between Chattanooga and Knoxville. Here traffic came to a screeching halt and we all sat in our vehicles. 

I hoped on google maps and off the interstate. Taking the two lane south and then east back to my destination of Pigeon Forge, TN. 

Why would I be headed to Dollywood you ask? Good question. Answer: I wasn’t. I was headed to someplace much more obscure. The Outdoor Gravity Park. Obscure being the right word, as the place is well hidden. Nevertheless, I prevailed!

Upon seeing the hill, I had a slight bit of hesitation. My back isn’t a 20-year back anymore. But, I didn’t drive all this way for nothing, so I got out of the truck and walked to the observation deck. Shortly after arriving, a father and his son decended, and I was fully game!

As near as I can tell from the internet, the Outdoor Gravity Park is the only place in the USA where you can Zorb. They call it OGO, but it’s Zorbing. And, IT WAS MOST AWESOME !!!! (Yes I have video.)

After the Zorbing, still wearing wet clothes, I headed out to find the hotel. Tonight’s stay of choice is again a Super 8 Motel. This one at least a full star above yesterday’s choice. 

After dumping some bags, I went in search of an ATM and food. A large buffet worked good for providing a huge plate of meat. Food! Glorious Food! 

I spent a little time trying to view my video on my laptop, but I seem to have developed a problem with my windows media player driver. Once I get home again I’ll have to fix that. Until then, it can sit on the USB drive. LOL!

Early night tonight. More driving tomorrow. Good night all.

Started the day at the Waffle House!

Welcome to the peach state. 

Not a great picture, but traffic stopped as far as the eye could see.

Pigeon Forge is a well hidden tourist trap. I mean Orlando in the mountains.  The traffic on the main drag is awful. 

The hill at Outdoor Gravity Park. Zorbing is awesome!