Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Summer Of Road Trips Begins!

It was the Summer of Road Trips (in fact, every summer is the Summer of Road Trips, for us)!  We had a whole slew of things we did this year, and it began in June with our trip to Williamsburg, VA, and Busch Gardens.

We left on Wednesday after I worked two-thirds of a day, so we could get an early jump on traffic.  But leaving early didn’t help a bit since there’s ALWAYS traffic in the DC area.  Twenty minutes after we left home, we hit a major traffic backup on the Capitol Beltway, and we crawled for several miles.  I abandoned the beltway at Route 4 and meandered over to US 301 and headed south from there.  While there were the typical back-ups in Brandywine, where local authorities caved to developers and built a huge complex of shopping centers along 301, which has created gridlock at all times of the day, we were able to keep moving and made it to Williamsburg by 6pm.  It was a relatively quick trip, which was a rare thing.

This was a special trip since we had made plans well over a year ago with the timeshare company BlueGreen to receive a “two-hour” presentation on what they’re offering, in exchange for a bunch of hotel points.  I’ve already established in my head that these timeshare things do not fit our lifestyle, so it’s very easy for me to say, "No, I’m just not interested," despite the "manager" telling us that we're stupid for passing on their offer.  It's high pressure and I can see why so many people cave and buy when they don't want to.  The only downside to our visit was that they picked the hotel we were staying in for the time we were there.  I’ve stayed in practically every hotel in the Williamsburg metropolitan area, but we have never stayed at the Country Inn and Suites on Bypass Road.  While it ended up being okay, it was fairly typical of the standard hotels we’ve stayed at in the past.

Our evening plans consisted of dinner and possibly a movie.  We went to our new discovery, the Mellow Mushroom, in Newport News, where I had one of the largest calzones I’ve ever seen.  Our server, Heidi, was wonderfully upbeat, and that made Melody happy.  We told her so, and it brought her to tears.  She was very good at her job, and, if you go, ask for a table in her serving section.

After some debate, we decided against seeing a movie, and instead we drove back to the New Town section of Williamsburg to visit the local Barnes and Noble bookstore.  However, to our shock, the store had a handwritten note on the door saying that they had new hours and closed at 9.  It was 9:15, so we missed out.  Instead, we got dessert at the Sweet Frog, then went back to our hotel and crashed for the night.  Our appointment with BlueGreen was to start at 10:30am the next day.

After getting ready the following morning, we went to our appointment with BlueGreen.  We listened to their presentation and all I will say is that they used every technique I’ve seen in the past, making assumptions about us by our appearance and the things we shared while we chatted.  I was not at all interested, and they knew it, and we were the first ones out of the place.  We left at 1:15pm, so it was definitely longer than the two hours they said it would be, but I expected that.

We went back to the hotel for a few minutes to change and get sunscreen, then we spent the rest of the day at Busch Gardens.  We had a great time, though it rained on us each day for the rest of the trip.  We rode all of our favorites, including the Loch Ness Monster, which is celebrating its 40th birthday.  The only coaster we missed was Verbolten, which always seemed to have the longest lines, and also was closed off and on most of the time we were there.  Crowds were light overall, mostly due to the rain, so we enjoyed ourselves a lot.  Friday night was especially fun because, after getting soaked by a late evening thunderstorm, we had the park to ourselves for about an hour before they closed.

By Saturday, we were ready to head home.  We had breakfast at the Colonial Pancake House, a regular tradition on our last day in Williamsburg, then shopped at a couple of places we like.  We found a five foot tall dancing Santa Claus for half price at the Christmas Mouse, and we bought it for Mom and Dad for their anniversary.  At around 2pm, we headed out of Williamsburg, going out on the Colonial Parkway to Yorktown, and Route 17 through Rappahannock to US 301. From there, we stopped to eat at Cheddar’s in Brandywine, then we surprised my parents in Bowie with the dancing Santa.  We finally arrived at home at almost 9pm.  It was a fun trip!

Have a great evening, Everyone!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Looking Back at Father's Day

My wonderful 14-year old daughter, Melody, surprised me with a Father’s Day gift yesterday that I didn’t expect:  a free lunch.  She made all of the arrangements, talked to her grandmother for advice, and, at mid-morning, declared we were going out.  She had already set the GPS on her phone and said that I would be required to drive one hour and 15 minutes, and she would provide the directions.  So, off we went!

We headed north, then west, towards Frederick, MD, then continued west to Hagerstown.  As we approached a shopping center, it became clear where we were having lunch:  Primanti Bros!  I didn’t even know they had a Maryland location, since Primanti’s is a Pittsburgh fixture.  It’s a sandwich shop specializing in the all-in-one meat, cheese, slaw, and fries, between two thick slices of bread.  Melody was pleased that she had managed to surprise me.

We headed in, were soon seated, and placed our order.  We started with tater tots for an appetizer.  Melody ordered a salad, but I got a sandwich with Capicola, provolone, slaw, fries, and a fried egg on top.  It was delicious.  Melody talked us into a brownie sundae, and I had a few bites before allowing her to finish it off.

She insisted paying the bill, and I helped her calculate the tip.  We also found out that, since it’s Father’s Day, all dads get to eat for FREE!  What a great deal!

Melody said I should decide what we would do for the rest of the day, though she suggested a few places that her grandmother had recommended.  We ended up going to an antique mall just south of Hagerstown.  We spent the next hour walking through the large, crowded aisles, settling on a book (for me) and picture (for one of Melody’s teachers). 

We then continued down the road to Frederick along old Route 40.  We stopped at the large, overly crowded Wonder Books, a used book store, where we each found a few more books.  Our next stop was in downtown Frederick at North Market Pop Shop, home to hundreds of unusual bottled soda pops.  We found six bottles of various flavors, then walked back to our Jeep and headed towards home.

What a nice day, and great idea, by my darlin' daughter.  She seemed pretty proud of herself, and I'm glad that she thought to go out and celebrate with me.  She makes me special by making me a Dad, and I'm so honored to be her father.

Have a great evening, everyone!