Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Trip to the Steam Room.. I mean East Coast (pt 1)

    So recently I had the chance to take a vacation. I spent a week on the East Coast visiting my friend Collin.    I may have mentioned him in the past, although I cannot think of any specific posts off hand. Collin and I met in the 7th grade and so we have been friends for 21 years now! It is incredible to me that we've stayed friends so long. One of my longest friendships that is for sure, the only one longer is with Malinda but she and I haven't SEEN each other in 21 years (but we've kept in touch via letters/emails/facebook over the years) I have plenty of other friends that I have known since childhood/junior high/high school but none that I have kept in touch with as much.

Well 6 years ago Collin joined the Coast Guard and since that time has been living on the E. Coast. After he joined I went to his graduation from OCS in Groton CT and for the past 3 years he has been stationed working at CG headquarters in Washington DC. He has invited me to visit since he has been there. As he was going to be leaving the area soon I figured now was as good a time as ever for a visit! Here is the story of my trip (which may end up broken up into more than one blog post)

 Sat night I was up kind of late, packing and getting everything ready to go. My flight was at 7am and so I was going to have my Mom drop me off at the Van Nuys Flyaway between 4:30-5 am. I got in bed pretty late (after midnight) and set my alarm for around 03:30 I love only getting a few hours of sleep! In the morning I got up and showered and got dressed for my travelling. I got up my mom before we needed to leave, loaded my suitcase in the car and my sister Deann came along too for the ride. We got to the flyaway and they came in with me to wait until my bus was ready to go. I got my ticket and they were already boarding. I was the last person for that bus! Perfect timing! Took the bus to LAX and checked in. Went thru security and around 6am I grabbed some breakfast and was waiting to board my first plane for the day. I was off to a good start! Knowing during the trip I would be doing a good amount of sight-seeing and thus walking, I brought along my cane. My boarding pass said zone-6, but I was able to board first! Nice bonus for me!

I found my seat and got settled in. I had the window seat and was wondering as they said that the flight was full who would occupy the 2 seats next to me. Eventually during boarding a lady and her daughter came along. The daughter was maybe 6 or 7. As we chatted intermittantly during the flight I learned they were from Australia and heading to New York. They had already travelled from Australia to New Zealand and from New Z. to LAX. We now had a 5.5 hour flight to Newark, Nj and they still would have to travel from there into New York. Her morning travels had already been 11 hours worth of time! ... I guess it's good she was going to be in NY for 3 weeks! That is a lot of time on planes! Her daughter slept thru most of the flight. I had brought along a small blanket for travelling and let them use it since the airline didn't offer blankets or pillows. Part of the time her daughter (while sleeping) leaned my way and was sleeping against my arm. She was going to move her and I said it was not a big deal. I really didn't mind. The flight went well and we arrived in Newark. I had a plane change and was taking a smaller plane for the end of my day's journey!

My flight itinerary stated that I would land and depart both in the "south terminal", but as it turned out I landed in terminal 71 and was leaving from terminal 115c! So I had a little bit of a trip to get to the next plane. En route to the next terminal I grabbed a chicken sandwich for lunch. ... actually maybe it was turkey... I don't remember now, but it had a cilantro pesto on it.. it was good. I got to the terminal listed and it showed a different flight on the screen. I checked with the agent at the counter and she said I was in fact in the right place so I settled in (on the floor, as the terminal was packed) after I ate I went into the bathroom, put in my contacts (instead of my glasses) and put on some make-up. Finally the screen showed our flight. It got to be the time we were supposed to be flying away and we still hadn't even boarded the plane. Nobody made any announcements or anything and we were all sitting there still. Finally they said that our flight was going to be delayed and that the plane we would be boarding should arrive within 15 minutes. I gave Collin and my family the update on my flight status. It was there that I learned that Rodney King had been found dead in his pool from CNN news. After about 15 min there was a plane that had landed but then our flight info was no longer on the board. It showed another flight going somewhere else. Again no announcements had been made! Then someone asked and they mentioned our flight was going to be leaving from terminal 111c instead. (in the same area, luckily) and so we were still sitting waiting for that plane to arrive. In the meantime the guy at the next terminal announced that his flight would be leaving from terminal 111c in a few minutes. ... our flight info was still not listed on any board and our agent wasn't making announcements! Nobody really knew what was going on. I was giving Collin updates as I would find anything out. He told me to just let him know once we were on the plane and they told us to shut off electronics and he would leave then for the airport in Baltimore. Eventually we boarded from 111c. I really wish they had done better with communicating information to their passengers since we had all been waiting for awhile (close to an hour at this point) and our flight was still not listed on any screens and they barely made announcements for us to know what has happening or where. We were on a tiny plane (only seats 50) and again I had a window seat.
We sat there at the terminal for a bit and finally they gave us the "turn off electronics" announcement so I texted Collin and turned off my phone. We were on our way! We sat there for a few more minutes and finally headed away from the terminal. Then we sat there, and sat there, and barely moved... after at least 15 or 20 min the Captain came on and told us that when we first got in line for departure we were #14 in line and were now #10, that we would be at least another half hour before taking off! ... I wished I could text Collin and tell him we were delayed that much longer, but I had to abide by the electronics rule! Finally we left! The flight went well and when we landed I texted Collin. He told me he was waiting by baggage claim #3 because he thought that would be where my luggage would be. That was another long trip thru an airport. ...which the Baltimore airport was completely empty in the terminal where I landed and all the way to the baggage claim from where I was! It was odd to me! Kinda eery even! I found Collin, we got my luggage and headed for the car! It was nice to have finally made it! I don't even know what time it was when I got there. At least an hour late. Collin said that when he arrived my flight info wasn't on their arrival boards either! The only one it showed from Newark wasn't set to arrive until like 3 hours later!

We left from the airport and ended up at Chipotle for dinner. We had some tacos and sat outside to eat. It was nice! Then we headed to the grocery store for a few items before heading to his place. Finally sometime after 9 (east coast time) we got there. He carried the groceries and my suitcase upstairs for me! Such a gentleman! I totally could've gotten it! (or the groceries at least) He turned on the TV, I think to a movie, but I wasn't really paying much attn. I was pretty tired at this point (I had tried to sleep mid-flight but only got like maybe 45 min max) He said he would set up the air-mattress for me and I told him I'd be fine on the couch (they were totally comfy) he set up the mattress anyway! Put sheets and a blanket on it for me too! I told him I was disappointed though that the sheets were wrinkled and I wanted him to iron them. (which he never did...) Eventually after midnight sometime we went to bed. I had been up for approx 18 hours and was pretty exhausted. I was going to sleep on the couch but felt bad he went through the trouble to set up the bed for me, so I slept on it. (but in the morning before he saw me I re-made the bed and laid on the couch so he thought I slept there..hehehe)

 In the morning the movers were set to come to pack/move his belongings and I was going to rent a car and drive to NC to see my friend Sharon who also moved to the East Coast like 5 years ago! But as I was looking at weather conditions they were supposed to have thrunderstorms in Raleigh ... as I was going to be driving 260 miles, in a rental car in an area I wasn't familiar with I got a little hesitant. I was texting Sharon to see what she thought and she said that she could probably come to Washington DC on Weds instead since her kids hadn't been there before. I told her I could help with gas money (since I would've spent money on a rental anyway) and so I decided to stay for the day. The movers came pretty close to 8 am to start the packing and I tried to stay out of their way. I moved from chair to chair, room to room. Did a little reading, and talked with Collin a bit. He kept offering to take me to the mall and drop me off, or the movie theater so that I wouldn't be bored. I felt bad he was so worried but for me it was actually nice to have "nothing" to do! I don't get that much around home, especially on my days off, I end up cleaning or babysitting, or helping my mom or something! Plus I was still pretty tired. I had only gotten 3 hours of sleep on Sat night, travelled all day, stayed up late and hadn't gotten a ton of sleep that first night there either. Around lunch time Collin and I went and picked up 5 Guys burgers & fries for us and the 2 packers that were there. We sat on the floor and let them sit at the table to eat. A little while later more guys came from the moving company with the truck and the 4 of them finished packing the large items and loaded the truck! I am not really sure what time they all finished (maybe 5 or 6??) but afterwards Collin and I went to Panera Bread for dinner then to the movies to see Madagascar 3 in 3-D. During the movie I was starting to get pretty sleepy, but managed to stay awake (barely). After we got back to the empty condo we sat on the air-mattress and watched SNL on Netflix from his computer. Well he kinda watched I was kinda dozing off. We went to bed kinda late that night too. He slept on a sleeping bag in the bedroom and I had the air mat in the front room.

Tues morning we got up, had breakfast and got cleaned up. We drove around Alexandria VA a little then went to the Marine Core Base and got discounted tickets for the Luray Caverns. The trip to Luray was just a little longer than an hour and half south of Alexandria. We stopped at Chik-Fil-A mid-trip for lunch. When we got to the caverns we did the cavern tour first. The cavern tour takes about an hour. It was really really cool. During the tour we got to see so much and at the deepest point were 164 ft below ground! We also got to see/hear the worlds largest "natural" instrument. They have a pipe organ from the stalagtites! It's the worlds largest instrument because the pipes they use for the notes extend thru i think they said like 38ft of the caverns! Some engineer had spent like 3 years testing the pipes and finding the ones with crystal in them that when tapped with a rubber mallet would make the different notes required for the music. THen they connected the wiring and rubber mallets as well as speakers to the pipes and voila the organ was found! They no longer allow live performances on the organ but have a mechanical set up so we got to see (two of the pipes used) and hear the organ play. It was really amazing! The tour guide said what the song was but I didn't recognize it. There was also a "wishing well" Collin and I each made a wish. Thay said that every year they collect all the money thrown into the well and donate it to a different charity. They had a list of all the charities and how much was donated to each. There was a lot!

After having seen the caverns we got a drink and then went into the Car and Carriage Museum which was at the same location and included in our cavern ticket. It wasn't a huge museum but they did have a lot of really cool classic cars and carriages! It was neat. I love that I don't have brothers because my dad taught us to appreciate cars and such. It was fun. I maybe don't know as much as most people (especially most guys) but I do know a lot more than most girls! I definitely know I appreciate cars more than most girls! I was kinda bummed though that there were a lot of variety in cars but only 1 Chevy! It was still a lot of fun!

After the Car and Carriage museum we walked to the Garden Maze (again at the same site) but this was an additional charge. We decided to do it. It was pretty cool and the guy said most people take like 30-40 minutes to get thru the maze. Several years ago on my birthday Collin, myself and a few other friends Dallas and Remy went to a corn-field maze in Moorpark somewhere. We had been in the maze awhile and I had gotten seperated from the rest of them... I cut thru the corn and we got kicked out :-( Collin and I were determined to complete this maze! The guy gave us a piece of paper for stamping on. There were 4 "goals" to reach and a stamp at each throughout the maze. Once you get to goal 4 you're near the exit. We found goal 1, and then we seemed to only find dead ends, so we used the hint. --- I must say there were hint signs throughout and we only used it once! So that has to mean something as well! We continued and found goal 2. Went up and over a bridge thing and took a little break on the bench there. Then we found goal 4! Determined to finish all the goals we turned around to see where we missed goal 3. Finally we found it as well and made our way back to the exit. I think with the slight detour of finding goal 4 before 3 we ended up still getting out within an hour or so. In fact another couple we saw near the exit had missed 3 also and we were able to give them a pointer how to find it!

After the garden maze we headed across the street to the Luray History Museum (which was also included in our Cavern Ticket) and walked thru there as well. THey had a long rifle collection and a bunch of other really cool artifacts. I love going thru museums and seeing/learning of history! I especially love seeing old letters and documents. It is incredible and I love seeing the old handwriting! So beautiful in most intances. They had an old German Bible too! Amazing! There was a lot to see in yet another small museum. Really really cool! Tiny baby shoes and old quilts, old uniforms and cast iron stoves! It was neat. Of course by this time we had done quite a bit of walking and I was without my cane (in the brochure it showed railings along the walkways in the caverns so I left it in the car. But there wasn't railing the entire time... ) I didn't let it bother me though. I was enjoying myself too much to care about my knee hurting! After we were done in the history museum we contemplated going to the Shenandoah Falls and seeing one of the waterfalls nearby. We were planning on maybe trying but then as we talked about it and realized although we could reach the falls before dark, we could end up hiking out in the dark. We decided not to try. We headed back towards Alexandria. I had COollin stop on the way back though so I could take a picture with my dear friend Yogi Bear as we were passing Jellystone Campground.

We decided to wait to eat dinner until we got back into town and once we did we went to a place called "Hard Times" It was a cool little place to eat. We shared some Buffallo Wings, I got to sample their chili's. For dinner I had a chicken salad and he had some ribs. After getting back to the condo, we again chilled on the air mattress and we watched "The Killers" on Netflix. I didn't realize it before we put it on but I had seen it before. But since I didn't really remember it (or who I had watched it with or when) it was like a new movie to me. But as I watched I knew I had seen it! Kinda weird really but such is the way it goes sometimes! Tues was yet again another late night! But at least I had felt more rested. We didn't get up too early that morning so it was nice! Well I think I am going to leave it here for now! ... My next blog will prob be about Weds and Thurs, then I will finish it with a 3rd post for Fri, and Sat to include my trip home... Otherwise this will be one long read! Here are a few more random pictures for you to enjoy! 

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