Monday, January 28, 2013

Great Falls National Park

On Saturday we met up with a couple of good friends who happen to live in the area right now and went for an invigorating post-lunch hike in Great Falls National Park in Virginia. It was flat hiking, along a levy between an old canal and the Potomac River. A path system of boardwalks and bridges on an island in the middle of the river took us over frothy waterfalls and gorges gnarled with giant white icicles. The day was partly sunny and clear, at times it was even bright enough to rock my west coast style sunglasses. The brown forest of tree trunks and twiggy bare shrubs was dusted with snow for a sepia toned effect that looked like something you'd see in a calendar for the month of January.

Ok, I'm NOT dissing eastern hiking, simply observing how different it is from what we know in the wide-open west. The drive to the National Park was not through BLM or Forest Service lands, but rather along a winding rural road lined with multi-acre estates and colonial looking mansions. Stone, brick and big driveways with quaint views of a meadow or a brown forest. The white tail deer are cute and petite. The parking lot is HUMUNGOUS, and I'm sure it fills up before 10am every weekend (and weekday?) in the summer. Although the parking lot was less than 1/4 full the day we were there, we passed a ton of people on the trail, mostly wearing big, long, puffy jackets and also wearing enough black to make John comment on how he needs more black in his wardrobe now that he's in the east again. The river was huge, the creeks were running, there was water everywhere, and although it was frigid, a generally damp feel and smell was all around us.

But what was absolutely wonderful was seeing our friends, spending some time outside, and learning about a new (to us) short long-distance trail we could hike or bike someday: The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. You could basically walk from the southern tip of Maryland to Pittsburgh. 830 miles. So many things to daydream about!

While I'm daydreaming about busting my bike out of storage and bolting on the fenders to get it tour-ready, here are some pics of our afternoon.

Small World

John and I flew into DC in the middle of a city-closing-snowstorm on Friday night. A cold, icy storm had us delayed on the DC runway for an hour while they de-iced the runway and the planes. Obviously escaping winter for a warm tropical post will be coming a little later.

But let me start at the beginning of our exodus.

After an early morning arrival at the Bend/Redmond airport, some wrestling and cursing of our 4 checked bags and 4 carry-on bags, and a sigh of relief that we actually had tickets on the flight (not another run-around-wild-goose-chase from the Feds!) we were on the short flight to Portland and were feeling at peace with leaving Bend and starting our new adventure.

When we landed in Portland we saw a familiar face: Wes Anderson, an old pal from our ski bum days in Tahoe!

This was honestly not a surprise, and seemed a very fitting addition to our long list of goodbyes. We tend to see Wes whenever we're at the airport. He assures us that he really doesn't fly that often, and we know WE don't fly that often, but for some mystical reason we end up flying at the exact same time as Wes. Turns out he was going all the way to DC on our same flight to visit family out east. And now I'm sure we'll be running into Wes in all the DC airports...  wait a minute... Wes, is there something you're not telling us?...

We had free passes to get into the Alaska Airlines "Emperor's Club" in Portland and took full advantage of the free breakfast spread they had in there. I think it's actually called something corporate and PC like "The Board Room" but we wanted to add to it's prestige to help ourselves imagine the free champagne, caviar and massages we'd be enjoying during our 20-minute layover.  It was only 8:45am, but I ordered a mimosa much to the delight of my dining companion. He was busy gulping the free coffee and orange juice. I'm sure we looked like Julia Roberts in the fancy hotel, wide-eyed and disbelieving at how the rich folks live. We gotta figure out how to get some access to these VIP spots in the future, they're awesome! And some even have showers which would be so nice after a long, sweaty international flight.

The plane to DC was only half full so John and I got a row to ourselves and were able to stretch out and nap a little (veeeeeeeeery easy to do after mimosa). I watched an episode of Game of Thrones and read my book, Johnny played with "his little word game" on the iPad (he loves him some Chicktionary!). A quick 4.25 hours later, and it was wheels down. It looked like we were flying into Snowmagedon, excellent! The East at it's best. A couple inches of snow and it shuts down the city.

Grabbed our bags from the carousel and muscled them out to the taxi bay. We just had an address for the AirBnB room we were heading to so the cabbie  put it in his GPS and off we went. The snow storm was swirling around the Washington Monument and the Lincoln memorial as we drove past on the opposite bank.

At about $25 on the meter and on the side streets of Falls Church Virginia, the cabbie got lost. At first we were like, "okay, um, isn't this the oldest trick in the book?" But he assured us that he would cut us a deal no matter what the meter said. Okay dude. So we called our host and luckily she was able to talk him in with only a few more wrong turns and understand his thick African (or Haitian?) accent.

Her driveway was a steep little hill and homie hesitated right in the middle of it, breaking the first rule of winter driving: never loose your momentum. The front tires started spinning and the cab started sliding back into a truck parked on the side of the road. So John got out to help push the back end to the side as I told Homes which way to turn the wheel and when to hit the gas. It worked out pretty darn well. We parked at the bottom of the driveway and baby-step-walked our suitcases up it. Total bill? $25 dollars. Thanks homie, he really did cut us a deal, probably thanks to Johnny's help on the hill.

Our AirBnB host was super nice and our room looked great, but we were starving and ready to stretch our legs. A quick check on Yelp told us there was a good Lao/Thai restaurant nearby so we bundled up, I strapped on some YakTraks, and we hoofed it into town for dinner. What a lovely quiet walk in the snow! A delicious, spicy meal, followed by a cozy, contented walk home.

And that was just the first day of the adventure. This is going to be awesome.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Blog Title Runner Ups

Thinking of a name for my blog was the most fun I've had on the computer in a while. So hard to pick just one! I went with "Two Year Itch" because it feels like it's the most accurate description of our life no matter where we are: after about 2 years of doing anything or living anywhere it starts to lose its appeal - jobs, towns, hobbies, favorite recipes, favorite bands...
The only thing that remains a constant is to always have a new adventure on the horizon to look forward to.
It also captures perfectly what our life is about to become as State Department Employee and State Department Widow. Each post at a new embassy will last about 2 years, meaning that just as we start to take the city we're living in for granted, the Feds will send us somewhere new. Awesome? Absolutely. I know it's going to be tough leaving friends, but we already have a long Christmas Card list that's spread all over the world, so nothing new there.
Anyway, if Two Year Itch gets old, maybe I'll change the Blog title to one of these awesome runner ups.

But What Will Your Wife Do?
But What Does Your Wife Think of All This?
Is your Wife OK with All This?
Ship My Couch to Africa: A Foreign Service Life
Expat Like A Boss
Where Are You Going?
Pick a ‘Stan, Any ‘Stan
Long List of Stans
Black Passport
Salt and Mustard
Hardship Post Bingo
Something Worth Doing
Diplomacy By Any Means Necessary
Two on the Road
Hot n’ Dusty
Thumbtacks for the Embassy
Protocol Droid
Expat 2.0
Small World
Chickens Everywhere
But Can I Get A Goat?
Permanent Travel
Coming Home
Good To Go
Exported Expats   
Global Playa
Two Wayward Travelers
Two if by Sea
Time to Settle Down
Time to Mix it Up
Life is a Ride
Leaving on a Jet Plane
A Roof of Nylon
Tradja and Fashionshow’s Big Adventure