USA - 6 to 28 June 2018

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March 21st 2018
Published: March 21st 2018
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USA - 6 June to 28 June 2018

Wednesday 6 June 2018 – In the Air

Up at 5 am for a 6:30 am pickup and drive to the airport. Quick breakfast, checkout, driver on time.

We are using Suntransfers who we have used before – they are reliable and provide their service at a good rate for an airport transfer. Nice Mercedes sedan – comfortable and our driver had some great relaxing music on. The trip only took about 20 minutes at that hour of the day.

Had to wait half an hour for the check in counters to open. No officious luggage witch this time counting every ounce in the check in baggage so straight through to security.

All good and the long trek to Gate B67 at the ends of the earth in Barcelona airport – pity help the disabled ! Time for a ham and cheese baguette and a coffee and then through passport control (unusually placed at the gate lounge) to the waiting lounge. Only a 15 minute wait and onto the aircraft.

The plane is a B777 and is not full today – several rows and seats vacant around us. We are in the two seats in Row 36 immediately behind the last row of three – more room.

Lumpy and bumpy exit from Barcelona and soon up above a cloud cover so nothing to see. Looks like some good movies available.

Now at JFK in New York - 1:00pm local

The flight on American Airlines was a good one – arrived half and hour early at 12:05 pm. More than a few bumps on the way over in the middle of the Atlantic and some of them were quite rough. But all was well, no injured passengers or falling luggage.

Our caution at booking a connecting flight soon after arrival has “backfired” with the early arrival ! We do not fly to Washington until 5:30pm. So people watching in JFK is the entertainment for the afternoon. We know we are back in the USA when we see dogs being lead around the terminal for their flights as well. One was as big as a greyhound and we have just had a dog barking competition.

Free unlimited wifi in JFK is great – good signal and fast speeds. We are catching up on Australian news and emails. The sad news of course is that Queensland lost Origin 1 – obviously NSW cheated and the refs wore blue shirts – but we know it is just the gallant Queenslanders giving the Cockroaches a sniff so they feel better before they get their annual hiding.

Adrian is picking us up in Washington on arrival at about 7pm.

Now in Washington DC - 7pm local

We transferred to an Embraeur 175 aircraft for the JFK / Washington leg of the journey. Comfortable 2+2seating in an older plane. It was only abut ¾ full and there was plenty of room for carryon luggage – would have been a problem on a full small commuter like this. The flight only took 45 minutes – a few bumps on the way because of the weather and the smaller aircraft.

Adrian was there to meet us and we were at home in Maclean by 7:30pm.

Sophie and Isaac did not know we were coming and it was great to see the look of surprise on their faces. They had better be pleased because Adrian and Vanessa head off on Saturday for a week away alone – as we had planned for this trip.

A lot to learn in two days about where everything is again. Not problem but got to get the mind in gear and get used to driving here to get to the places. The schedule for the kid is busy with three baseball games and two birthday parties in the week to contend with. Fortunately, the school bus stops right outside Adrian and Vanessa’s place for the pick up at 8.20am and drop off home at 4pm each day.

We will stay close to home for the week rather than doing large scale sightseeing to ensure we are nearby if we are needed. We have ben here three times before so we have seen a lot of the tourist places.

John – not so many steps sitting in aeroplanes !! Only managed 8,500.

Thursday 7 June 2018 – Washington DC – Maclean

Jet lag strikes ! I got 5 hours in before the mind started working and I could not get back to sleep. Roz seems to be sleeping OK though. The bed is comfortable and it is nice an quiet here in the suburbs.

Cooler here than I expected but have not seen a full day yet.

Blog entries might be a bit off and on for this week and not as prolific as the past two week. But will try a few entries and to get a few photos. Hope the transition to the USA blog has worked.

All up and about by 8am. We saw the kids off to school on the school bus at 8:20am. Sophie is the bus monitor for this term and gets wear a yellow sash. She waits until all the other children are on the bus safely and then takes her seat in the front row.

We continued unpacking and started the first of 3 loads of washing to catch up our days in Barcelona. Strange thing here is that American houses do not have external clothes lines – no one hangs their washing out. I guess that is a problem in the middle of winter here but as the day reached 28 degrees, it would have dried well. Everything has to be put through the dryer.

Vanessa took us down the street for us to replenish all the sprays, lotions and creams that we got rid of in Barcelona to save weight.

Got the ironing out of the way – make and mend day !! And in no time, it was time for the kids to arrive back home. It is a real meeting place in the street where all the parents meet to welcome them home.

Isaac plays baseball and tonight was practice night tonight. Adrian and I took him to a local field and we watched as the coach tried to herd cats – with all of the 7/8 year olds. Isaac has got a good arm and good hand/eye coordination. He hit a couple of mean balls too. Practice went from 5-6pm. He has two or three baseball games next week that we have to get him to.

Home and Vanessa had prepared a really nice salmon dinner. We had bought a huge piece of salmon and it was cooked to perfection along with a tray of vegetables.

Jet lag was kicking in again at this end of the day and Roz and I we fading badly at about 9pm.

Not sure of the full program for tomorrow but Isaac’s class is having a break up party early before the end of the term next Friday because one of the teachers is leaving. Vanessa and Roz are going down to help with the making of pizzas. We will probably eat out for dinner.

Failing badly on our steps – only managed 6,000 today. Too much driving around. Will have to get back on the morning walks as soon as I can get over the sleep deprivation.

Friday 8 June 2018 - McLean

Bit late off the mark with this entry - gets too late at night to keep up the entries.

Up early and back to routine with a walk. Vanessa has a 6 km course that I followed - an hour an 10 minutes of walking - over 8,000 steps and a pleasant view of the neighbourhood. Some huge houses - not many gardens as we have them because of the cold and snow later in the year but a lot of trees and foliage. It is very green here and it does look nice

Back home to get the kids ready for school, breakfasted and then onto the bus. They are nearing the end of their school year here (ends next week) so they are getting into fun activities - a field day where they play outdoors which involves lots of water. They had to take a change of clothes and a towel. I heard pizzas are on the menu too.

Vanessa had to get some items for their trip and teacher's end of year presents so out to the large shopping complex near us - Tysons Corner. It is all very upmarket compared to our shopping centres but they do not collocate their supermarket shops in the retail shopping centres. You have to drive elsewhere to buy your groceries.

Back home for a light lunch. Roz and Vanessa headed back to the school to help with classroom activities. Adrian took me to a shooting range where we fired a 9mm and a .45 inch handgun. Enjoyed that !! Have not been on a range or fired a weapon for about 30 years and did not do too bad. The eyesight is failing me though - cannot use the guns sights and see the target well enough without using reading glasses.

Home and prepared to go out for dinner. We headed to the Cheesecake Factory at Tysons - huge place that we went to last time as well. Large menu and everyone seemed to enjoy what they had.

Again the tiredness kicked in and we were in bed by about 10pm.

John - only about 12,000 steps today.

Have to be up early tomorrow to take Adrian and Vanessa to the airport - they are taking a driving holiday for a week to LA, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, San Francisco and back to LA while we look after the kids.

The challenge begins ! Biggest issue is finding everything out and about. The GPS devices are great but also have to get used to driving their Ford Explorer.

Saturday - 9 June 2018 - McLean

Up early again at 5.30am to drive Adrian and Vanessa to Dulles airport. first long drive in the Explorer and first solo drive back from the airport - about 30km away. Thank goodness, it is early Saturday morning and there was not a lot of traffic on the road. Isaac was awake so he came with me as well.

All good with the drive - only one wrong turn and that was just once around the block to correct the mistake. I am using WAZE as the GPS on my phone and that is proving to be a good tool. I have also got the Tom Tom mounted as a back up as I am more familiar with that format but WAZE is proving to be good.

Had to drop off at Dunkin' Donuts on the way home and buy 24 assorted donuts for Isaac's baseball team. It was Adrian and Vanessa's turn to provide the post game snacks and drinks. It appears donuts are the preferred option along with a poppa drink. Isaac has a game at 12 noon - it apparently will last about an hour. But some rain is forecast so will just have to wait and see.

Sophie has put in an order for shopping with Grandma this afternoon so it looks like that is a trip to Tyson's Corner for a few hours.

Tomorrow, Isaac has a birthday party to go to and then we are planning to meet up with our friends Dave and Lorraine for a few hours - they also have grandchildren minding duties at nearby Fairfax.

Off to the baseball at a Little League field relatively close to home, thank goodness ! Typical Saturday morning kids sport event where all age up to early teens were playing matches and families there to support them. Four fields in constant use. Isaac's game started at 12 noon and lasted about an hour. they managed three innings for one team and two for the other. There did not appear to be a scoring system and the main requirement was for each lad to have a bat. One of the parents did the pitching and they patiently waited until the batter actually hit a ball (lots of air swings).

At the end of the game, Sophie held court guarding the donuts and drinks until all the team members were there and then releasing the goodies. Very humid conditions in the middle of the day.

Drove to the Giant supermarket and grabbed some sushi which is the favourite after baseball and home to have lunch. The plan was to head out to Tysons after lunch to fulfil the shopping request but by the time lunch was completed, the temperatures and humidity were up even further - very similar to February days in Brisbane leading up to a storm - and we decided to have a quiet afternoon at home. The kids found some kids Netflix and that kept them occupied for the afternoon. Grandma and Grandad melted in the afternoon heat and snoozed !

Grandma's rissoles and salad for dinner proved a hit - both of them asking for "more please" - and then she king hit them with a jelly as well. Smiles all round.

At about 7pm east coast time we got messages from Adrian and Vanessa that they had arrived safely in Las Vegas after arriving earlier at LA airport and hiring a car - a bright red Camaro ! By coincidence, they crossed paths with Renee and Adam who were also in LA on the last leg of their trip. I think they are treating themselves and staying at the Palazzo in Las Vegas. They did a video cross to the kids to say good night as we were getting them settled for the night.

The humidity was making it very difficult to sleep and I tried to get the air conditioning started upstairs. In my defence, there is a broken part on the A/C control and it took the use of nail file (not metal) behind the "on" cooling control to trip a switch. Adrian had showed me the trick but, for the life of me, I could not get it until about 10pm. Many visits from the kids complaining about not being able to sleep until I managed to get it going.

To top it off, we did get a brief thunderstorm late in the evening.

The American houses we have visited have certainly not been built for cross ventilation and all appear to be locked up most of the time. We find them very warm and stuffy inside the house and this time we have opened every window we can find to induce cooler breezes. It does not help the house is on three levels - 4 bedrooms upstairs, living on ground and a basement containing our bedroom and bathroom. We are sleeping on the upper level while Adrian and Vanessa are away so we are near the kids - we would not hear them in the basement.

John - less than 10,000 steps yesterday. did not remember to get an accurate count before the meter flipped over a midnight.

Sunday 10 June 2018 - McLean

Once the A/C was on, a good night's sleep. Sunrise is around 5:40am. Looks like a fresh and cooler day outside but the temperature and humidity does build quickly. A thunderstorm is forecast for later in the day again.

Very quiet neighbourhood here in McLean with little traffic movement and virtually no movement during the day outside of the houses. We have not seen evidence of kids playing in the street or yards although the sporting fields seem well attended for scheduled events. We do have a main road about 300 metres away and the inevitable police, ambulance and fire trucks can be heard with sirens blazing. Neighbours are friendly enough, when seen - the most social event seems to be the gathering at the school bus stop on the corner where Adrian and Vanessa live in the mornings and afternoons. The street is a real ethnic mix with a South Korean family opposite, a Jewish couple next door, Chinese, an Italian couple further up - and of course the Aussies on the corner.

Thursday is "Flag Day" and apparently everyone puts their nation's flag out on the front porch. Adrian has his ready - so it will be interesting to see the participation rate and what other nationalities are represented.

Mr Isaac up on the knocker of 7am and Sophie about 8am. Scrambled egg and a boiled egg were ordered and delivered !

Took Isaac to his friend's place for a birthday party - only nearby - and they have indicated they will drop him home afterwards at about 2:30pm. Miss Sophie had her order in for "shopping with Grandma" so we headed over to Tyson's corner for a coffee and a wander. She ended up getting a couple of books and I found a wallet that I was looking for.

Cannot believe the amount of $1 bills that we end up with after a day's shopping- the things multiply. And they are so hard to get rid of.

Duty done, we headed for Giant supermarket and picked up the daily supplies - lasagne has been ordered by the troops for Monday night so had to get some bits and pieces to make that happen.

Isaac was delivered back home on time and we headed for Fairfax to meet up with our friends Dave and Lorraine Smyth with whom we have been friends since we met them in 1986 in Melbourne. Dave was a US Army Officer who won the lottery and was selected to serve a the School of Signals at the same time we were there. He brought his family - Lorraine, Sean and Jeremy - with him and Roz and I assisted in welcoming them and settling them into their married quarter in Watsonia.

We have remained friends ever since and we have visited them in their home in Woodbridge, Virginia on at least three previous occasions. They have made us very welcome each time we have visited. On this occasion, we are going to head off to the Chesapeake Bay area next week with Dave and Lorraine, after Adrian and Vanessa return, and have some days in B&Bs in Annapolis and St Michael's Harbour. Looking forward to that - both for their company and friendship but also to see the Chesapeake Bay area which we have been promising ourselves to do but have not got around to it before.

We went to the home of their son Sean in Greenbriar, Fairfax where Dave and Lorraine are also looking after their grand daughters Malana and Sage. After and initial chat and a coffee, we headed to the local Silver Diner for dinner with the grandkids, It said it was silver and a diner - and it was - in the typical movie style we have seen for years in Australia - booths and bars - and lots of silver decoration. Dinner was what it would always be with 4 grandkids 12 years and under at the table - noisy, chaotic, messy - but fun to watch. the grandkids had started out shy of each other but by the time we got to dinner, it was full on repartee and noise.

The afternoon storm did not eventuate and that made the drive home to McLean so much easier for me. The GPS really does a good job.

The next challenge was to settle the gassed up pair, get them showered, dressed for bed and organised for a school day tomorrow. They do know the routine though and they both had lights out by 8:15pm after a short read in bed.

Adrian and Vanessa are still in Las Vegas doing a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon today. As at the time of writing this, still waiting to hear the report from the day, although some photos have just arrived and they are still in the air. They are 3 hours behind us here on the East Coast.

John - just 7.000 steps today - failing badly !

School day tomorrow - back to routine for Sophie and Isaac. It is their last week at school for this semester before breaking up for the long summer holiday. I think they go back to school in early September.

Monday 11 June 2018 - McLean

All good intentions getting up to go for a walk at 6am this morning but light rain was falling and they call me "Willy" not "Silly" - so just had to satisfy myself with floor exercises.

The little people were on time and got up at 7am for their breakfast and preparation for school. By the time their bus came, the rain had stopped but it was quite cool - down around the 14/15 degree mark, overcast and looking like more rain might fall. Isaac still has a rattly chest but it does not seem to have developed so hopefully it improves.

A bit of a nothing day devoted to a trip to the shopping Mall at Tyson's Corner. We think Chermside is a large centre but it does not come near this place - and there is yet another centre at Tysons which has all the very high end retailers in it and it is almost as large again. I guess large populations need large retailing centres to feed the beast.

Before heading tot he Mall though, went for a haircut to Adrian's usual barber which is run by Vietnamese. USD $22 for the cut, neck shave, hot towel and head massage ! Good value I thought.

Roz dropped a jacket off at the dry cleaners - USD$8 !!! Even better value.

Adrian and Vanessa have reported their trip to the Grand Canyon a great success. They were driven to Hoover Dam and then flown in a help to the floor of the canyon where champagne was taken (as one does when one has been flown onto the floor of the Canyon). A change of plans by the tour company saw them flown by helicopter all the way back to Las Vegas giving them a great view of the Strip and the hotels on it - A&V were not unhappy about that !

They left Vegas today and drove to San Francisco. At the time of writing, they are about an hour out from San Francisco and intend spending 2 days there.

Sophie and Isaac appeared on schedule at 4pm on their big yellow bus and appeared to be full of beans. I think the fact that it is the last week at school before the start of the summer holidays might have something to do with that. There does not seem to be too much school work going on !

Grandma hit the mark with crumbed veal for dinner - clean plates all round.

A bit over 11,000 steps managed today.

The rain has been on and off all day - mostly light sprinkles. Makes the driving a bit more interesting but I seem to have adapted to the local conditions and switched brains for the left hand drive (touch wood). People are generally considerate of each other with their driving and there are remarkably few tooted horns or aggressive driving. Hardest part so far is getting used to the size of the Ford Explorer compared to our little old Hyundai iX 35. The Ford does not have any sensors or rear vision screens and its size and shape means I can't see the front end or back well. So have resorted to getting Roz out as I am parking to make sure I do not touch the wall when parking. Better than marking it for life I guess !!

We will probably take a drive west tomorrow and visit the Leesburg Outlets to see what we can see. Keeping a relatively low profile for the week. We have a poetry reading for Sophie at school on Wednesday, another baseball game to attend for Isaac on Thursday - does not start until 6:30pm, and a sleep over birthday party for Sophie on Friday night at a girl's place in Falls Church.

Tuesday 12 June 2018 - McLean

A cooler morning at 13 degrees but the overcast skies broke up and blue sky started appearing. Carried out the usual organisation of the little people to get the fed and watered, dressed and on the bus by 8:20am.

"Crazy Hair Day" for Isaac's class so Grandma had to create a spiky look with product. He seemed happy with the result.

We did the dash up the road to Leesburg Outlet Mall for the day. With traffic, it took about 45 minutes each way and we had a couple of hours there including time for coffee and lunch. Nothing too exciting about the centre, very much like our Brisbane DFO, but much larger and more high end shops. I found a pair of shoes in a brand I had been looking for. I had bought Johnston and Murphy boat shoes in the USA 10 years ago and have worn them often. They are very comfortable and have worn extremely well - so I now have another pair ! Also got a good leather belt for just $10.

Roz got the bargain of the day. She had bought underwear from the Jockey outlet in Leesburg when we visited 18 months ago. What costs her AUD$20 at home costs less than AU$10 here. Mass purchase to last a decade and over AUD$200 saved ! If the Customs bloke counts the knickers, he will accuse her of going into business !

Drove home in the afternoon traffic (a bit more exciting !) and were here for the kids arrival from school at 4pm.

Adrian and Vanessa are in San Francisco today - no report on activities.

Renee and Adam arrived home yesterday to indifferent cats - I think the cats had given up on seeing them again after 5 weeks away !

Grandma's lasagne for dinner tonight. We will see if it is as popular as the crumbed veal last night.

John - just over 7,000 steps for the day.

Post dinner Blog

The lasagne has gone down well - figuratively and literally ! Grandma has won their hearts, minds and stomachs again ! The promise is fish and chips tomorrow night.

It has been a beautiful day in Washington. Started cool at 13 degrees but got up to a healthy 26 degrees. 8pm here and the sun has yet to set in another half hour or so. the equivalent of daylight saving could go a long way in Brisbane !

20 - 31 degrees and showers in the morning are forecast for tomorrow.

Wednesday 13 June 2018 - McLean

Slightly overcast again this morning with a few sprinkles of rain but nothing too dastardly.

Up early for a walk - pleasantly cool.

Kids off to school no problem - they are good with routine and are up on the dot of 7am, have breakfast, clean teeth, make beds and get dressed. Grandma is in charge of hair - particularly with Sophie. Grandad does the lunches and gets breakfast for them. Works well.

Cannot go too far from the ranch this morning - we are due to go to Sophie's classroom at 11:50am for a poetry reading and spend about half an hour with them. The school, Kent Gardens Elementary, is about 5 minutes drive from home.

Afternoon Blog

Have been there and seen that ! Went to Sophie's school and went to her classroom on the second floor. the school design is very much as we have seen on so many US TYV shows - long block work corridors with just the classroom door opening into the hallway with no windows. Everything is very solid and I guess that has something to do with security, if required. Very strict entry requirements to the school with locked school entrance only opened by office staff from within. Had to produce our passports to prove our identity before being allowed to proceed to the classroom. Don't get me wrong - we are happy with that !

All the kids were on lunch break and only Sophie's teacher, Kelly McLemore, was there preparing for the poetry session. She made us very welcome and had a chat about Sophie's progress.

Then chaos descended with all the kids returned to the classroom along with parents and grandparents.

Order restored and the poetry readings began with each student given the chance to read their selected poem. After the reading, others were asked to state what they liked about the poem. Good insights there too showing they were actually listening !

Not many of the poems actually rhymed but that did not matter as we were hearing the perceptions and thoughts that they had about a range of subjects. Some of the thoughts were dark, a lot were humorous and some were just statements. All good though.

Sophie's subject involved the platting of her hair, which Vanessa normally does. Her story told the situation where Vanessa had to visit Australia to see her Mum and Adrian had to do her hair. The expressive look of disapproval from Sophie of Adrian's efforts, in the context of the poem, was good to see !

A drink and biscuits were offered an after an hour or so, it was all over. We met her teacher, Miss McLemore, her special Needs teacher, Mr McFadden and a teacher's aide who also helps Sophie in the classroom - Mr Eklund.

A drop into Giant supermarket to replenish the larder that seems to run down quickly with the two growing kids and then home for a late lunch.

Fish and chips for dinner and some make and mend with washing, drying and ironing.

Evening Blog

The fish did not go down as well as expected. Grandma put some cod in alfoil, added a little butter, lemon slices and some herbs. It came out beautifully but I think the kid's expectations were not met - not fried or in breadcrumbs !! However, with a little encouragement, the plates were cleaned - the chips were consumed post haste (of course) !

The end of the school year is approaching and that is being evidenced in the skittishness of the little people. A bit more boisterous and challenging - perhaps they are just getting used to the new sheriffs in town. Took a bit of convincing including Grandad playing bad cop to get them to bed but finally there and lights out by 8:15pm.

John - a little over 8,000 steps for the day.

Thursday 14 June 2018 - McLean

A warm night opening to a clear sky and pleasant morning. woke too late to take a walk as I have to be here for the kids at 7am to start their breakfasts and do the lunches. Grandma's job in the mornings is the hair arrangements. Sophie's hair is just so long and thick ! Even Grandma is not game to try the plats and braids that Vanessa puts into it each day.

Got them on the bus on time and we had decided to go and visit historic Georgetown so got organised and left home about 10:15am.

Georgetown, founded in 1751, predates Washington. In fact, D.C.’s oldest neighborhood was established 40 years before Washington as a tobacco port town in Maryland. It is renowned for federalist architecture, historic brick and frame row houses, cobblestone streets and grand estates dating back as early as the mid-1700s.

We Ubered it to avoid the time that the Metro takes (an hour) and the hassle of driving and trying to find a park. Cost was USD$18 into town and $17 back in the afternoon.

The main street is M Street and they continue that system through the alphabet to identify the streets. M and O streets are regarded as being the most representative of the area although you can walk up any of the streets and see beautiful old colonial houses and houses converted into businesses.

In the time available, we did the length of M Street (about 1.6km) up and back and a section of O street. also took time out to go to a local Trader Joe outlet where the kids Bagel herbs and spices were available - their bottle was running out and were were under instruction to get more !

A pleasant lunch was had on the waterfront area including a Spanish Cava for Roz and NZ Sauv Blanc for me. Interesting to see we were about the only ones with an alcoholic drink in front of us - most were on the water or soft drinks !! At least we know how to enjoy ourselves !

A lot of the Georgetown centre was blocked off for the filming of a movie. We asked but we were told they were not allowed to tell us what was being filmed. But we know it involves a lot of 1960's cars which were there in numbers.

Left Georgetown at 2:30pm to make sure we would be home in time for the kids. Traffic was in fact significantly heavier than the forward journey but we were home in good time.

Adrian and Vanessa are driving from Monterey back to LA today and will be back here early (5:30am) on Sunday morning.

Isaac has a baseball game tonight at 6:30pm.

The temperature got up to 29 degrees this afternoon - low humidity at 30% though. The forecast is that it is going to steadily increase over the next few days topping out at 36 degrees on Sunday - which, BTW is Father's Day here in the USA.

Today is Flag Day in the USA and lot of homes put the national flag out. I did the duty with Adrian and Vanessa's Aussie flag.

Evening Blog

Baseball game done and dusted. Isaac did well - he was the only one on both teams who hit the ball on the first pitch in both innings - and they were good hits too ! This is the penultimate game in the season but the Coach handed out the end of season medals to the team this afternoon. games are well attended by parents and grandparents. Last game is at 10:30am on Saturday.

The game was over by 7:30pm so straight home and dinner of left over lasagne for both of us. Isaac into bed late - but tired so no noise or mucking around and he was straight off to sleep.

John - just over 9,000 steps today.

Friday 15 June 2018 - McLean

Up early at 5:30am for a walk. Beautiful day - no clouds, warm at about 18 degrees. Not many others walking at that hour of the day.

Last day at school for this semester and they go on the long summer holiday until the end of August / early September - Vanessa will be pleased !! They were happy little campers going off to school too. It is only a half day at school and they release them early so we can't go too far from home.

A quiet day spent around the house doing the kids washing, drying and ironing. Did I mention earlier on in the blog the total absence of external clothes lines here ? Everything is dried in dryers or on clothes racks inside the houses. We have seen a few of the clothes racks on back verandahs but good old natural sunlight is not used to air or dry the clothes. Again, I guess it has to do with climate and the part of the year when it is impossible to hang cloths on the line to dry - but you would think there is a market for the removable clothes lines for use in the summer months.

The forecast has moved a bit and while temperatures are rising, it looks like the peak is going to occur later in the week with a 36 on Tuesday instead of Sunday. Thunderstorms are also on the agenda in the evenings.

An observation - not criticism - but the lack of suburban coffee shops is of interest to me. Being a confirmed coffaholic, I look for the opportunity to taste the local brew but, other than the dreaded Starbucks, it is just so difficult to find a hole in the wall / deli / cafe coffee shop that all of our suburbs thrive on. With the population it has, you would think there would be a plethora of them. There just does not seem to be the same degree of sociability, of stopping, lingering, sitting, reading and chatting that has become part of our culture at home. As I have said before, the larger retail shopping centres do not have the grocery supermarkets attached and, while there are a number of supermarkets in this area, none of them have coffee shops included in the strip. Starbucks makes an appearance instore but there is no ambience or seating with it. Just sayin'.

The kids arrived home at 2pm full of energy and beans after only half a day at school and done for the semester. Loads of classroom paperwork and projects in the school bags - hours of fun for Adrian and Vanessa to sort through !!

Took Sophie to a sleepover at Falls Church for her friend Tessa's birthday. I believe there are only three girls for the sleepover including Tessa so they might run out of steam early in the night ...then again ! Pick up at 10 am tomorrow.

Isaac played quietly in Sophie's absence and joined Roz and I for a curry that Roz had made using an Insta Pot. A bit like a slow cooker/ pressure cooker but it performed very well, pressurising and cooking the meat in less than half an hour. Isaac does like spicy food and cleaned up everything on the plate - but it was only a mild curry rather than a bum burner !

John - no use recording the steps for the day - very few other than what we did around the house !

A warm night again - dropping only to the low 20s.

Saturday 16 June 2018 - McLean

Another pleasant morning to start the day around 18 degrees, clear skies and a high of 31 degrees forecast. Roz & Isaac sleeping in - except the old man whose mental alarm clock goes off at about 5am each morning. Must be totally acclimatised here as it is working, on time, each morning - even when I want to sleep in. They rose at about 7:45am and the expected request for pancakes for breakfast came right on schedule !

Picked up Sophie from her sleepover at 10am - they had a good night with the usual talking and videos until the early hours. Not a problem as it is now school holidays.

Took Isaac to his last baseball McLean Little League game. As he is going home at the end of this year, this is his last game of baseball - unless his school in Australia also has a team. He did well again - particularly with the bat. Two hits straight up the middle off the first and second pitches of the two innings he was in. Not many of the other boys are seeing the ball as well as he is and his Coach commented on his ability after the game and encourage to keep the game up when he went home.

Home for a quick lunch and then had to take Isaac to his friend Farid's birthday party at the American Bowl in Falls Church. We had actually taken Sophie and Isaac there 18 months ago when we last visited so I had an idea where it was. Farid's family is from Egypt and they are also here on a diplomatic posting but they have another 12 months to go.

Isaac declared the party "the best ever" and had the usual party food to rev him up ! Farid is apparently a special friend art school in his grade and that was borne out after the game when Farid and his Mum visited us at home and presented Isaac with a scroll of hieroglyphs spelling out his name. How nice of them !!

AND - I found a real coffee shop !! Rather than come home, I waited for Isaac in Falls Church and found a good coffee shop inside a building of retail shops. It was just like the ones we are used to and the coffee was good.

I do have to say, the coffees we have been having in the USA have been a lot better than what we have encountered in previous years. Roz and I only have long blacks and add a bit of skinny milk so we are getting the coffee taste rather than flat whites or cappuccinos where you are getting the milk taste.

Home about 3:30pm with Isaac to find that Sophie has faded with the late night and has put herself to bed for a snooze. She needed it.

Hot dogs and chips for dinner tonight. We were thinking of taking them out for a special outing but they are both tired with their end of week and weekend activities. We may be going out tomorrow lunch or dinner anyway as it is Father's Day here in the USA tomorrow. Not sure what arrangements have been made.

Sophie was up at about 4:30pm and Grandma decided she needed a nail manicure so the kitchen shop was set up.

Dinner went well with the hot dogs - of course !

Quiet night at the ranch watching one of the 800 channels available on the subscription Adrian has. Most are not what we want but there are sufficient to be able to pick a movie or three.

Sunday 17 June 2018 - McLean

Up at 5:15am and on the road by 5:45am to drive to Dulles airport to pick up Adrian and Vanessa. Warm start to the day even at that hour - over 20 degrees. A beautiful sunrise.

A bit of a wait for the luggage but the folks appeared and we were home before the kids woke up. It is only about a half hour drive from McLean to Dulles.

Roz and I took the kids to Tysons for a sushi lunch to let Adrian and Vanessa have a sleep. They had a red eye special from LA overnight and had not had much of a rest on the plane.

Kept the kids busy for about three hours at Tysons and returned home about 3pm where Adrian was preparing an Australian roast lamb dinner. Lamb is a bit expensive here though - particularly the imported stuff. The 3kg leg worked out at around AUD$60 !!

Spent the afternoon on Adrian's Virtual Reality set flying aeroplanes - unbelievable the detail and responsiveness of the system.

Getting close to dinner.

Our friends Dave and Lorraine will be picking us up at 2pm tomorrow for our trip with them to Chesapeake Bay. We are heading to St Michaels Harbour first for two nights in the Old Brick Inn B&B followed by another two nights in Chez Amis B&B in Annapolis, right near the US Naval Academy. Hoping for good weather but the forecast indicates a very hot day tomorrow (35 degrees) and then slightly lower temperatures down to 28 by Thursday but with some thunderstorms. Trust we can dodge the wet bits and enjoy the travel with Dave and Lorraine.

The lamb was great. Adrian used a Jamie Oliver slow cook recipe and the meat was just falling off the bone. That and a bottle of South Australian Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz for Adrian and I and a glass of NZ Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc for Roz set the night off.

Monday 18 June 2018 - McLean

Glorious start to the day with a blood red sunrise and 22 degrees even at 5:30am. A nice walk around the neighbourhood while it was still fresh and quiet.

Only one week left here in the USA. We leave next Monday 25th for New York where we catch our QANTAS through to LA. An overnight stay in LA to break the journey and then home on the morning of Thursday 28 June, having lost Wednesday 27 June over the International Date Line.

A quiet morning at home packing for our trip with Dave and Lorraine who arrived from Woodbridge at 2pm. It was about a 2 hour drive through Washington and Annapolis over the high and narrow Annapolis Bridge to the eastern side of Chesapeake Bay and finally to the fishing village of St Michaels.

Afternoon Blog - St Michaels Harbour, Maryland

Dave had booked The Old Brick Inn in the main street as a B&B. A nice old building with period features - but comfortable.

St. Michaels, is a town in Maryland, USA. The population is only just over a 1,000 although this figure would rise dramatically over weekends and the summer holidays. St Michaels derives its name from the Episcopal Parish established there in 1677. The church attracted settlers who engaged in tobacco growing and ship building.

It is a sleepy little village with one main street and a number of retailers. Off the main street are picturesque streets and houses leading to the marina and harbour area.

We took a gallop down the main street for a once over lightly and then headed to dinner at the local Crab & Steakhouse restaurant on the marina. Very pleasant meal and as it was well after 8pm by the time we finished dinner, it was time to head for the barn. No local dance or card game that we could hit on for the night !

The promised storm did not eventuate - again. The build up with humidity is good enough but it does not seem able to make it to rain.

John - managed 12,000 steps today !

Tuesday 19 June 2018 - St Michaels

Comfortable night in a comfortable bed and woke at 5:45am. Overcast skies and 27 degrees even at that hour of the day.

Went for a walk in the town streets and ended up on the water's edge seeing rabbits, squirrels and a lot of bird life. It really is a pleasant place with wide tree lined avenues. A few other walkers out and about but just so quiet and fresh, despite the heart.

Our breakfast slot was 8:30am so met Dave and Lorraine and enjoyed a good B&B cooked breakfast with the American standard of bottomless coffee. The chef turned out to be a young American lad who had spent 6 months in Newcastle doing hospitality studies - he heard our accents and had a chat.

We then followed a walking trail around the town visiting historical locations and houses that had been owned by prominent citizens over the years. A lot of the houses date from the late 1600s and into the early 1700s - even before Australia was visited and settled by the British. The town featured in the revolutionary War of 1812 with British ships firing cannon at a small fort that was located here. The main activity seems to have been boat construction.

Again the lushness of the vegetation makes the place seem so serene. There are more gardens here than we have seen in Washington - probably because a seaside area does not get the amount of snow that the places inland get. Roz tells me the hydrangeas, day lillies and magnolias are very good.

There is a combination school with an elementary, middle and high school combined into one campus.

Humidity ad temperatures were through the roof and we were feeling the heat so there were frequent stops into air conditioned shops on the walking route.

Roz & I stopped off at the Carpenter Street Saloon and shared a South Western Salad bowl for just USD$12. More than enough for lunch.

In the afternoon, we took a drive further down the isthmus toward the Bay itself to Tilghman Island. As luck would have it, as we approached the bridge to the island, we were stopped as the drawbridge opened up to allow a boat to move out into the Bay. It appeared to use a huge concrete cantilever weight to raise the roadway.

Not a lot at Tilghman Island but good to have seen another area.

On return to St Michaels, we visited a number of restaurants with a view to selecting a place for dinner. No decision made yet.

During the afternoon, we had light rain and that appears to have broken the high humidity - much more pleasant as at 5pm.

To dinner at another seafood restaurant - Crab Claw Restaurant - here in St Michaels. Managed to find a Kim Crawford NZ Sauvignon Blanc on the menu - this company has done a major penetration of the US market - you can find it almost anywhere you go !

Dinner done - an obligatory detour via an icecream shop to replace the lost energy from the hard day of walking.

John - over 15,000 steps today.

Tomorrow we need to check out by 11am and we will be heading to Annapolis for the Chez Amis B&B where we will spend another two nights before returning to Adrian's place on Friday.

Wednesday 20 June 2018 - Annapolis

A slightly cooler and certainly less humid morning - clear skies -and down around 23 degrees.

Out for a walk again at 6am - saw rabbits this morning as well as the squirrels.

Breakfast at 8:30am, checked out at 10:30am and then took a long slow walk along the main street of St Michaels and did some window shopping and poking around inside some of them. Lunch in a local café and had what is said to be famous "Smith Island Cake". It was a layered cake with sponge and chocolate icing in between the layers. Noice !!

By now it was near 2:45pm so it was time to head for our B&B in Annapolis. It took about an hour to drive back over the Annapolis Bay Bridge and to find Chez Amis in East Street, Annapolis. The owner was not there but had left clear instructions for us to get into the house and drop our bags. It is an older place that has been adapted. In fact for our room, the bathroom is down the hallway. There does not appear to be anyone else staying here so not a problem and if anything, the bathroom we have on the second floor is probably larger than the ones in the rooms. Creaky floors - will be interested to see how the place sleeps !

Maggie the dog lives here - she is a Labrador something cross and docile as anything. Happy as long as she stays downstairs.

The owner had left out coffee and cookies so we settled for a bit and then took a short stroll around town past the US Naval College. It is now the summer holidays so all the cadets have gone on leave - but we will do a tour of the College grounds tomorrow.

Main Street Annapolis was pretty busy and there is no shortage of restaurants and cafes.

Annapolis has obviously grown like topsy - streets and lanes go in every direction and it could be easy to get lost. I will find out tomorrow when I go for a walk. It is old infrastructure and the architecture appears to be Georgian.

Dinner tonight at a local hotel - report later.

Evening Blog

Back from dinner at the Rams Head Hotel - good feed of steak !! On Wednesday evenings here, they close off a street in front of a number of restaurants / hotels and have street dining. Quite a good idea and certainly well attended. We were going to sit in the street but a storm was threatening so we took the cautious approach and ate inside the dining room. As it turned out, we would not have got wet !

Intend to visit the US Naval Academy for a tour and take a city tour on a trolley bus they have and then have a nice final dinner with Dave and Lorraine as we will be heading back to McLean on Friday.

Tried to upload photos of the day's activities but the internet connection is not a good one and it is taking forever. Will catch up when the connection improves.

John - just over 15,000 steps today.

Thursday 21 June 2018 - Annapolis

Grey skies but slightly cooler and less humidity. Up for a walk at 6am and toured the local streets.

We are very near the Maryland State Capitol Building and its attendant administrative offices. The public buildings here are huge and there seems to be a significant level of bureaucratic infrastructure for one State but I guess it is not much different to the level of public service surrounding our State Governments either.

Annapolis was established in the mid 1600s and developed from there as a trading and seaport. Its streets near the port area are not well planned ad they run every which way. Lots of laneways.

The significant "business" in town in the US Naval Academy which again is just down the street. Navy and the Academy seem to pervade most things around here from blue, white and gold colours to store souvenirs and a lot of B&Bs with nautical themes.

The B&B breakfast was bigger than we thought it would be. Started with a almond and raspberry crumble with fresh blueberries, strawberries and cream - sounds bad, but it wasn't. And then a quiche like egg slice, cherry tomatoes and turkey breakfast sausage. Again, does not sound the best but it was all good ! Breakfast was not served until 9am and we did not finish until after 10am.

So at 10:30am, we headed to the US Naval Academy (USNA) for a guided tour. "Jack" was our guide and he was obviously a Navy veteran of considerable verbal ability. He made the tour interesting, informative and humourous. To try and describe the size and grandeur of the USNA buildings and the perfectly maintained grounds is a difficult task. The Academy was established in 1845 and the bean counters at the time must have had a brain snap allowing such huge and grand infrastructure to have been built. It is a beautiful campus which is a credit to the USA.

We were shown various aspects of the campus including huge granite accommodation blocks and an example of a Midshipman's cabin. The complex is said to be the largest granite structure in the world in its entirety and as can be seen from the photos, it is based on French design reminiscent of the Versailles Palace. The gymnasium is enormous, the chapel is huge - seating 2500 people at a time and having a 700 pipe organ. Under the chapel is the crypt for Revolutionary war hero Captain John Paul Jones - it is just stunning.

There were no cadets in residence at the time of our visit due to the summer vacation. the new class of over 1,000 cadets (Midshipmen) is due to arrive next week, undergo 6 weeks of orientation and then the remainder of the Brigade of Midshipmen return to commence / return to their academic studies. They do a 4 year Bachelor of Science degree and then graduate as Ensigns in the US Navy or as 2nd Lieutenants in the Marine Corps. They are required to undertake a minimum of 5 years service after graduation to pay back their 4 years at USNA. A thoroughly interesting visit.

A short lunch and then we took a one hour narrated trolley ride around town to see more of the beautiful homes and be given information on the history of Annapolis. Again, worth the USD$18pp for the trip.

Then, an unexpected bonus. Our landlady at the B&B, Elly Tierney, is also a Councillor for the City of Annapolis Council. As it turns out, the Mayor of Annapolis is an Australian - Gavin Buckley - who was originally from Perth but has been here for 25 years. It is an elected position and he just stood for public office and won ! Elly arranged for us to meet the Mayor in his office and we spend a good hour chatting with him. Not sure what he is on but he was a bundle of nervous energy, bouncing to and fro on subjects but being a perfect host. It was good of him to give us the time of day.

All good things come to an end so it was back to Main Street and some shopping was done before heading to dinner at Osteria, an Italian restaurant in Main Street that Dave and Lorraine had been to on a previous visit. A good dinner had with excellent service and then home before rain started falling.

John - 18,500 steps today !

Tomorrow we intend pulling stumps after breakfast and making our way back to McLean to allow Dave and Lorraine to try and beat the Friday afternoon traffic. They have another 45 minutes to drive south to Woodbridge after dropping us at McLean.

We have had a great reunion and trip with Dave and Lorraine. So good to see them again and for us to enjoy their company is such agreeable and pleasant surroundings.

Friday 22 June 2018 - McLean

Up at 6 am for a short walk. Skies overcast, sprinkling rain - unpleasant. And it did not get any better for the morning - in fact got much worse with heavier rain as we drove back to Washington.

Breakfast at 9am, clean up, pack the car and we headed back to McLean to drop us off. Traffic on the highways was nose to tail most of the way - hard driving for Dave.

Got back to McLean around 12:30pm. But we had rain all the way back as well making the driving conditions more difficult.. We have been fortunate though as this is the first real rain we have had anywhere on the trip in 6 weeks.

Vanessa ad the kids were out so we got stuck into the washing and drying to get that out of the way.

Roast chicken and roast veges for dinner - great meal.!

Adrian has a virtual reality set up and we tried out a new flight simulator he had bought. The detail and flight feeling is unreal. Even the feeling of doom as I lost control of a helicopter and ploughed into the (virtual) deck !!

Late to bed around 11pm.

John - steps not really worth recording - just over 8,000 - too much sitting in cars today.

Saturday 23 June 2018 - McLean

Slept in this morning - 6:30am !! Looks overcast and bleak at the moment - hope the day improves.

Will be taking Sophie and Isaac to see Incredibles 2 today over at Tysons Corner at midday today.

Instead of breakfast at home, went with Adrian to pick up egg, cheese and sausage bagels from the Bagel Shop that is nearby. Only about USD$4.50 per bagel and they were light and tasty, compared to the bouncy solid bagels we get at home. Took them home and had breakfast.

Got organised and took Sophie and Isaac to see Incredibles 2 - very popular venue considering it is school holidays, a Saturday and a wet day. Very crowded but I had ordered the tickets online. Only USD$7.50 each.

Lunch at Tysons was the usual USA fare in food courts - not very appetising ! Some retail therapy was needed for Sophie - she wanted to buy some costume jewellery and Grandma assisted her, leading her astray in the mysterious female custom of haunting jewellery shops - there is no hope for her now - she is there with the Master !!!

Home and a quiet afternoon until dinner. We sent Adrian and Vanessa off to dinner and the movies tonight to maximise their time together without the little people.

Only 6,500 steps today - will have to get right back on the bandwagon when I get home.

Still showering outside but they are forecasting slightly better weather tomorrow and for our departure on Monday.

Sunday 24 June 2018 - McLean

Last full day in Dodge City and the blue sky is showing through with some sunshine. It is a better day but they reckon the humidity is going to rise rapidly - and it did. Got up to 31 degrees and it was quite hot and sweaty out of the air conditioning.

Adrian and Vanessa had booked a local restaurant for brunch and we headed there around 10:30am. It was nearby to McLean. Done very well but the restaurant was so dark, particularly for that hour of the day. Lights turned down low and no external light coming into the place. This is somewhat typical of the US restaurants we have been in - but I guess that is what they are used to - we are the visitors !

The buffet spread, variety and quality of the food was very good - would want to be for USD$30 a head !! But we did enjoy it and it was made even more enjoyable by Henry the waiter who came by frequently and entertained us with his repartee. He has obviously been doing this for a while and he kept Isaac right in line !

Following brunch, we needed to exercise to walk off some of the fare so we headed to Tysons Corner (again) with Adrian, Vanessa, Sophie and Isaac and had a gallop around the centre in cool air conditioning - along with half of the local population I think. Very crowded.

Back home and started the repacking regime to get ready for departure. We seem to have managed to get it all in - albeit with one additional bag to cover the additional purchases made since we have arrived in the USA.

Good idea for dinner - Vietnamese !!! So we got a take away order that was pretty good. In US style, the portions were huge and thee is enough left over for unch and dinner tomorrow.

Final packing, a bit of TV and we were ready for bed.

We leave here around 10am tomorrow morning for a 12:50pm flight from Ronald Reagan Airport and the hour flight to JFK. We connect with our QANTAS flight at 6pm and head to LA where we will over night before catching the late night QANTAS flight on Tuesday night.

John - a bit over 8,000 steps today.

Monday 25 June 2018 - McLean - New York - Los Angeles

Have gotten a bit behind on the blogging due to the travel to get to LA.

Beautiful day in McLean for our departure and sad to do so after so many enjoyable days with the family. We are going to miss the morning cuddles and the repartee with the grandchildren and will just have to make do with the weekly Skyping that we manage.

Adrian very kindly delayed his travel to work and drove us to Ronald Regain International airport arriving there at 11am for our 1pm flight to JFK in New York. We were on a smaller jet with American Eagle - an Embraeur 145 - so it felt a few of the lumps and bumps on the way up and on the way down into New York. No problems though and we arrived there on time at about 2:30pm.

Unfortunately, our 6:50pm flight on QF12 out of New York was delayed an hour due to the late arrival of the aircraft from Los Angeles. No great problem as we were getting off in LA anyway to break the journey. As it turned out, the travel time from leaving Adrian's place to arriving at the LA Airport Marriott was about 14 hours and we did not want another 14 hours on top of that getting to Brisbane across the ditch.

JFK Terminal 8 is a disgrace given the size of the USA and the number of people who use the terminal. QANTAS and American Airlines now share Terminal 8 and the food offerings are just abysmal - few and far between, expensive and limited in menu. Not a good place to have to spend three or four hours.

The flight to LA from JFK was on the 747 service that is soon to be replaced with Dreamliners. Very comfortable though in Premium Economy, good service, no bumps in the air. The food was not too bad but all airlines seem to have gone down in quality of late.

Both of us got a bit of sleep in the flight of just over 5 hours. Late into LA at 9:35pm. Then began the long trek to pick up luggage We did not see one sign directing people to baggage claim and a QANTAS guide had to be provided to take us on the tortuous and long walk to get our bags.

Caught the Marriott hotel shuttle and arrived to a long line of arrivals at the hotel. Must have spent over half an hour in the queue to check in - complete with some clown who was having an argument at the front desk with management and holding up the check in process.

A light bite and a coffee at 1am in the morning (4am Washington DC time) and then to bed.

Tuesday 26 June 2018 - Los Angeles

Late sleep in to about 7am, coffee in the room. Had to wait a bit longer for Roz to surface but we were down to breakfast at 10am.

Wanted to get out of the room for the day so headed for Santa Monica in a Uber - USD$19 - and had a wander on the Santa Monica Pier and the retail area nearby. A bit of lunch, a few purchases and we were back to the hotel at 4:30pm to prepare for our 7pm departure by shuttle to the airport.

A lay day but managed over 9,000 steps to help our backs out for the 14 hour flight which should start at 11pm tonight and be back in Brisvegas by 6am on Thursday morning.

Additional photos below
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7th June 2018

Glad to hear you made it safely back to the US. Still need to have daily blogs as step counts are a vital part of Johns days. 😜 Hi to V, A, S & I. Enjoy the restful days. Barb.
12th June 2018

US trip
Good to see all is well . A question ; are you able to buy something for me from Amazon and ship to me . PK
12th June 2018

Peter - yes no problem. Let me know what you are after
12th June 2018

US trip
Jim Great . A “ Caldwell Lead Sled FCX adjustable shooting rest “ . Any good shooting store should carry ; Amazon have a outer package damaged unit for $270 and undamaged for $300 . You might be able to check on the Internet there . Thanks PK
12th June 2018

Will look for that and let you know how we go
12th June 2018

Have sent a reply to your email
14th June 2018

US trip
Not been successful sending messages from my iPad so using PK’s, the photos & commentary have been great, keep up the good work. Julie & Peter.

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