Published: June 22nd 2012June 17th 2012
9 June 2012 Saturday. Crossing the Great Plains.
In 1895, following a visit to the top of Pikes Peak, the mountain that looms a mile above Woodland Park, Colorado (where we live), Katherine Lee Bates penned the following lyrics in America the Beautiful:
"O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!"
We descended from the "purple mountain majesties" down to the "fuited plain" otherwise known as the Great Plains that stretches from Colorado Springs to Kansas City. We did not see any fruit; mostly "amber waves of grain." So we consulted Webster's dictionary to see if one of the definitions of great is fruited. Websters defines great as:
1) notably large in size; 2) large in number or measure; 3) remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness; 4) full of emotion; 5) eminent or distinguished; 6) long continued; 7) principal or main; 8) more remote in a family relationship by a single generation than a specified relative (great
-grandfather); 9) markedly superior in character or quality; 10) remarkably skilled; 11) used as a generalized term of approval (had a great
Seems that definition 1 applies, but
there is no fruit there. Also missing is flat and treeless. There is a reason that Kansas is known as the Fly Over State. We flew at 80 mph rather than the preferrred 550 mph at 30,000 feet.
What Kansas lacks in geographical majesty is more than compensated by their great people (see definitions 5, 9 and 10). We passed the hometown of Walter Chrysler, of Chrysler Corporation fame. His cars became an instant hit for Kansans who wanted a faster way to leave their state to visit Colorado. Next we passed Russel, the hometown of not one but two U.S. Senators: Bob Dole who would run for President in 1996, and Arlen Spector, who represented Pennsylvania. A bit further along in Abilene, the end of the cattle trail from Texas, we found the birthplace and Presidential Library for Dwight Eisenhower. Across the border in Independence, MO we passed the home of another great President, Harry Truman, whose qualification to be President was his stellar career as a haberdasher (a seller of small articles for sewing such as buttons, ribbons, and zippers). He had no college education other than one semester at Spalding's Commercial College in Kansas City. It
constantly amazes me how such small towns produces such great leaders. Perhaps we need a constitutional amendment that prohibits Ivy League educated lawyers from ever becoming President as they lack that common sense and humility that small towns produce in their citizens.
We encountered strong winds across the entire state; but this was better that our trip on the same route 2 years ago where in addition to strong winds we had driving rain and tornados. The wind was so strong that tractor trailers and RVs listed 10 degrees. Even the cows huddled behind billboards! And the "amber waves of grain" had whitecaps. Interestingly, most of the wind turbines which dotted the countryside were not twirling and producing wind energy.
We crossed the Missouri River at Kansas City, entering Missouri. Normally when leaving Kansas, I call home to Linda to tell her that "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more." But Linda was with me so I didn't call anyone. (Tamara, our daughter, and Liam, our grandson had flown to Virginia two weeks earlier to "help" our daughter Rosanna prepare for her wedding to Evan, so were not with us). We stopped the first night
in St. Charles, MO on the northern outskirts of St. Louis after going 836 miles in 12 hours. 10 June 2012 Sunday.
10 June 2012 Sunday. Crossing the Midwest and East - Same Same but Different
Missouri, Illinios, Indiana, and Kentucky are like driving across Kansas but with trees. Boy do I hate driving 1600 miles in two days. Especially with Linda saying every few minutes "Let's take the back roads." Back roads do not improve the scenery; only take twice as long. We did take some back roads through West Virginia, and I even took a detour to the New River Gorge, but Linda didn't want to get out of the car to walk 100 yards to the rim. So we continued, followed shortly by her saying "We need to stop soon so that I can walk around." We didn't stay on back roads long because the valleys are very narrow, so back roads are merged onto interstates where the valley narrows. Nevertheless, we did drive through some very nice 19th century villages and passed the Greenbriar Resort that not too long ago sat atop bunkers to be used for national leadership in case of WWIII. We
stopped outside a McD's in Covington to use their wireless to book a room for the night in Lexington, Virginia.
11 - 14 June 2012 Monday through Thursday. Into the Fray
The whole reason for this trip was to help Rosanna finish preparations for her wedding to Evan and then have the ceremony and reception.
Now you might ask why a travel addicted family would even consider a formal grand family affair over a destination wedding. Indeed, Rosanna and Evan, and the two fathers preferred a destination wedding. I even prepared several plans: a yacht cruise up the Seine River with the ceremony performed in front of the Eifel Tower followed by a gourmet dinner with wine and champagne, and several nights in the Waldorf Astoria at Versailles; or a wedding in a hilltop town in Tuscany; both of which would have been less hastle and much less expensive. However, the mothers on both sides over-ruled the best laid plans of us mice.
Rosanna didn't want us to arrive before noon on Monday so we arrived at their apartment at 1 pm. We unloaded the decorations and dresses which had been fitted based upon measurements taken
in April. Rosanna tried hers on and it was too loose. With all the anxiety surrounding this event she had lost 12 pounds. PANIC!!! She and Tamara went to a nearby dressmaker who calmly informaed them that there was no problem; the gown would be ready by Friday. They returned back to the apartment, pleased with themselves until Tamara tried on her Maid of Honor dress. With the boredom surrounding the event she had gained 12 pounds. Back to the seamstress who calmly informed tham that there was not enough material to widen the dress. As there was not enough time to loose 12 pounds by Friday, Tamara and Rosanna proceeded to the bridal store and bought a new gown, which with three layers tripled the price of hemming it up. They presented me with the bill upon their return. It turns out that there are no unsolvable problems given enough money.
The next unsolvable problem I was hoping wouldn't take too much money. A week earlier our caterer misunderstood what she was supposed to do in the way of cleanup, so had doubled the price. Evan and I met with her on Monday evening to see if we
could get back to the original contract amount. We partially succeeded, ending up paying about $500 more; but less than the $2750 she wanted. In the process I also learned that we had rented our Thai house in Bangkok in 1973 from her family. Travelers soon learn what a small world this can be.
We ended up staying with Mike and Betty, our friends from Germany and Belgium days, as Rosanna wanted peace and quiet, which our grandson Liam does not provide; nor do Tamara, Linda, and I. It was great to spend the following four nights with them. This also provided us a chance to go over the itinerary for our forthcoming trip to Hawaii, the South Pacific Islands of American Samoa, Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, and French Caledonia, and Sydney and New Zealand in September and October. We heard from a former boss who now lives six months of each year near Christchurch, and were invited to stay with them while in the area.
So during the ensuing days we slowly checked off things from the To Do list. Slowly being the operative word as the traffic in the Northern Virginia area has become even more hellish.
And with road construction everywhere, the roads I used to be familiar with are now blocked off causing me to have to find alternative routes that aren't blocked off. Linda keeps reminding me to watch my language and be patient. I am so happy we decided to move to Colorado seven years ago! Otherwise, I would be dead from stress.
Tuesday evening we ate with Mike and Betty. Wednesday evening we ate with Chris and Karen, Evan's parents. Thursday evening we took the Mike and Betty out for dinner.
15 - 17 June 2012 Friday through Sunday. The BIG Event
By Friday, the To Do List was much diminished. After knocking of the remaining items, we checked into the Hilton at Tysons Corner where we had booked a block of rooms for out of town guests. We left notes for relatives and friends telling them when we could meet. The girls picked up their dresses at the seamstress. Rosanna's gown was wrinkled despite best efforts by the seamstress, so I had to find a dry cleaner who would press the dress by Saturday. We then returned to Rosanna and Evan's apartment to relax until it was time
to head for the rehersal at Strong Mansion on Sugarloaf Mountain near Frederick, MD.
This mountain was used during th Civil War by the Union as an observation post to spot any Confederates crossing the Potomac River to invade the north. Crossings were detected before the battles at Anteitem and Gettysburg. In the early 1900's a Chicago industrialist built the mansion as a rural retreat to entertain Presidents and politicians.
Traffic was horrendous driving from Falls Church to Strong Mansion. Apparently there had been a wreck earlier in the day on the American Legion Bridge connecting Virginia and Maryland. It was still working itself out by 5 pm. Nevertheless, we made it. My Mom, sister Carol, and husband Steve (the officient) had driven from Ohio and beat us there. Soon all were assembled and we walked through the prgram a couple times. I walked Rosanna down the "aisle" where Steve asked "Who gives this woman to this man?" and I responded "My Mother and I." It's a good thing we have rehersals. I now am repeating the line "Her mother and I do" over and over so as not to flub the only line I have. We also
decided that 21 month old Liam would not walk down the aisle with Tamara as the Ring Bearer as he was out of control. We also learned that it is not a good idea to wear high heels on grass, as the heels can get stuck. Tamara decided to go bear footed during the wedding rather than buy another pair of shoes. Anyway, we had a fun time joking around.
We returned to the hotel where we talked to my sister Sue and our cousins from Northern Ireland until quite late. Rosanna, Tamara and the bridesmaids bar hooped through Georgetown until 1 am, which I guess is good.
On Saturday while the bride and her maids recovered from the evening before, Linda, Liam and I bought the flowers to decorate the tables. Evan helped Linda cut the flowers to fit into the vases.
At 1 pm I went to pick up the dress and it wasn't ready, so I went to get a haircut and razor cut. The dress was ready after this.
Saturday evening Evan's parents Chris and Karen hosted a wonderful Rehersal Dinner where we got to meet the other side of the family.
Sunday, the Fathers Day when I gain a new son. We started out at Rosanna's apartment where I wrote my Welcome speech and my Toast to the Bride and Groom. Then Linda and I went to pick up the flowers at the florist while the girls went to get their hair done.
We then returned to the hotel to get changed for the wedding. We left early to make sure we got to Strong Mansion by 4 pm, but soon discovered that some idiot had an accident on the American Legion Bridge thus tying up traffic for miles in each direction. You would think after years of dealing with accidents at critical choke points the first responders would come up with a way to clear up the accidents immediately, like a skycrane helicopter that would attach a sling under the vehicles and drop them into the Potomac River. Anyway, we had to take the long way around using the bridge at Point of Rocks fifty miles upstream. We arrived 40 minutes late, as did the caterer, DJ, wedding coordinator, and everyone else involved in the event. Everyone moved quickly so by 6 pm the ceremony was able to
start on time.
Despite the late start in setting up, everything from this point on ran like clockwork. The bride was beautiful (of course I am biased, but you can confirm this in the pictures). The weather was amazing...mid-70's with low humidity and no rain (it arrived the next day). The mansion and grounds provided the perfect elegant setting. The guests enjoyed the Thai food, and we kept the toast speeches to a minimum length. Liam was allowed to be Ring Bearer after all, but Tamara left him behind, leaving it up to the wedding coordinator to carry him to the last row of seats where he successfully walked the rest of the way. Rosanna and Evan led with a First Dance, and after the toasts the Father and Daughter danced (not a very good description of my feeble efforts). We danced the Twist to Bobby Vee's "Take Good Care of My Baby."
By 10 pm we sent off the Bride and Groom, and then several of us stayed behing to make sure the caterer cleaned everything up and we didn't miss anything, like the Bridal gown and veil. I then dropped Linda and Liam off at the
hotel and picked up Tamara's suitcase outside of Rosanna's apartment. We got to bed by midnight.
18 - 20 June 2012 Monday - Wednesday. The Loooong Trip Home
Monday morning we slept in, said bye to relatives and friends, checked out of the hotel, and then dropped by Rosanna and Evan's apartment to leave the gown and all the decorations so that we had room for Tamara and Liam's suitcases in our car for the long drive home. We were on the road by 11 am and crossed the American Legion Bridge without incident. We drove to New Castle PA to visit Linda's Mom who wasn't physically up to making the trip to the wedding. We visited for two hours and then continued on Interstate 80 across northern Ohio. As we were close to where Steve and Carol lived at Beulah Beach on Lake Erie, we decided to stop by to see them and their three boys who also were not able to attend the wedding. We visited them for an hour or so and then drove to Sandusky for the night.
Tuesday we continued west along I-80 with our first stop in Amish Country of northeastern
Indiana. We had a family style lunch at an Amish restaurant and shopped a bit. Linda had thought to buy a quilt but they were quite expensive. Maybe she should start selling her crocheted afghans...we would make a fortune! We got back on I-80 hoping to get around the southern edge of Chicago before rush hour. We succeeded in that but soon ran into stopped traffic just before Joliet. Fortunately we were near an exit, which we reached after awhile, and then took sideroads beyond Joliet and back on I-80. We never did find out the cause of the traffic jam. By 7 pm we were well into Iowa and stayed at a nice hotel with a an indoor waterpark near the Amana Colonies, a National Historic Landmark. These villages were founded starting in 1855 by a group of German Pietists who had originally come from Germany to New York in 1843 seeking religious freedom. Tamara and Liam enjoyed the swimming pools and water slides (well not so much for Liam).
Wednesday we spent the first couple of hours in the Amana villages before heading west again on I-80. Because of time we decided to skip Madison County and
its covered bridges and John Wayne's boyhood home...another individual who would have made a great president! There was a lot of road construction, but unlike Illinois, this didn't seem to back up traffic. So we crossed Iowa and Nebraska, arriving in Colorado at sunset and saw the Rocky Mountains once again. We arrived home at 11 pm and crashed.
I owe David and Merri Jo a blog about Colorado which will be next; probably inconjunction with a class reunion in Wnter Park at the end of this month. Then I look forward to blogging our trip to the South Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand in September. It's great to be blogging again!
There are more photos below