History and Old Friends

Having had a good taste of U.S. History in Gettysburg, we headed to Washington D.C. for a bit more!  We stayed in a lovely County park in Reston, Virginia, where Pongo had the time of his life traipsing through the forest in search of all kinds of furry critters! He and I got to bond even more than usual during this stay because David had to fly back to L.A. for a few days for work, so we had a blast just hanging out together!  While he was gone, I was thrilled to have a visit from one of my high school friends, Julia Alexander. We haven’t seen each other since graduation, so needless to say there was a lot to catch up on! Once David was back, we managed a get-together with some dear friends Breen & Renny Berger who moved to VA years ago and wasted no time catching up on all the happenings of the past several years.

Since we had been to D.C. a few times in the past, we didn’t spend a ton of time going to museums and such, but we did visit the International Spy Museum, and it was so much fun!  It’s very interactive, and when you arrive they give you a secret cover identity that you use throughout the museum as you unlock codes, find “dead drops” and try to avoid capture by the enemy!  We highly recommend this place, especially if you have kids!  They do a great job of bringing the history of international espionage to life.

We took Pongo with us for a walk along the mall, and had the unique experience of watching the helicopter that would be Marine One (if the President were aboard) do touch-and-go landings from the White House lawn! We assume it was a new pilot practicing, because as we discovered from watching at least ten of them, there is a very specific sequence to how they have to come in, rotate, land, take off, rotate again, and leave.  It was quite fascinating At first everyone was excited, because we all assumed that it was actually Marine One with the President aboard, but after the 3rd time it took off and landed, we finally tumbled to what must be happening.

We were very excited to next visit more friends in Virginia. Bekah and her husband Jordan live in one of the historic homes on his family’s estate in Colonial Beach, VA, right across from the family winery.  The winery used to be a Harvest Host but found that it was more trouble than it was worth, so they stopped hosting, but we still got to visit and do some tasting! Needless to say, several bottles of the delicious wine made their way into our collection!

Bekah and Jordan’s home, Wirtland, was built in 1852 by Dr. William Wirt, son of William Wirt, former Attorney General of the United States. If you’d like to read more about this beautiful home, you can do so here. I’ve included some photos from the Gallery in the home, but they’re hard to see. The letter in the photo is from John Adams to William Wirt.

It’s not every day you get to stay at a home that’s on the National Registry of Historic Places. I will say, it felt a bit sacrilegious to be parking our massive Class A motorhome on the lawn right in front of this historic site, but we sure enjoyed our time visiting with Bekah and Jordan, and eating some of the most delicious homemade mac & cheese I’ve ever tasted! Bekah was concerned that their dog, Ollie, might not be too accepting of Pongo, but they got along famously! I’ve got to say, visiting some of the “kids” we watched grow up now as adults is a treat!

Ollie & Pongo having a blast!

Next up we stopped at Virginia Beach to visit Bekah’s mom, Kathleen Wiedenhoeft.  Paul, Kathleen’s husband, having retired from the Coast Guard, couldn’t sit still and was off driving a cruise ship at the time, so we didn’t get to see him this trip, but we had a lovely time touring the Va Beach area by bike and by boat!  The State Park there is right on the beach and was quite lovely, but David had to break out his Sawzall to remove a few branches so we could park!

Being so close, I HAD to make a day trip to Chincoteague Island, home of “Misty,” from the children’s novel, Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry.  It had been a great favorite of our family as we were homeschooling the kids, so we couldn’t pass that up! There are a whole bunch of places that claim to have descendants of the real Misty, and we stopped to pet some of the ponies at one of them.

We next turned the Bounder inland and stayed at one of the nicest Boondockers Welcome locations we’ve seen to date. It is right on a lake in Roanoke Rapids, NC, and the host has a dock, kayaks, fishing equipment, and just about everything you could ever need to enjoy life!  The host came out and helped David catch a catfish, (which we promptly tossed back) and later treated all of the guests to a delicious barbecue chicken dinner.   We were sad to leave this one, but were so thankful to have found it! 

We continued to make our way through North Carolina, stopping at too many gorgeous places to mention, and culminating with Asheville, NC, where we finally got to visit the Biltmore Estate. It just happened that they were beginning to decorate for Christmas, so we got to see the huge team setting out the decor.

We also squeezed in a hike on Grandfather Mountain with some California friends, Karl & Sharon Wagner, who were also in the area, which was such a joy. There’s nothing better than meeting up with old friends along the route!

Then it was back to Tennessee!  One of our low-key goals for this trip has been to figure out where we might want to retire someday and settle down, and Tennessee is one of our top choices.  Having looked at both Chattanooga and Nashville, many folks had recommended checking out Knoxville, so we headed in that direction, but not before spending a few days in the Great Smoky Mountains, visiting both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.  What a FUN tourist destination! Surprisingly, one of the highlights was the Hatfields & McCoy’s Dinner Feud experience! We really had fun, and the beauty of the Smokies is truly unmatched!

We spent a week in the Knoxville area but didn’t see a lot of “tourist” things because we were focused on checking out lots of land for possible purchase.  We were FAR from the only ones!  We stayed at a campground outside of town and at least 60% of the other guests were there looking for property to relocate to from other states!!  We did have one classic Knoxville experience, though. We went downtown to have dinner one Sunday afternoon, only to be overwhelmed by a virtual SEA of orange!  It was a home game weekend for the University of Tennessee (vs. Ole’ Miss) and let me tell you, those folks are SERIOUS about their football!  (Reminded us very much of being in Columbus, Ohio  on the weekend of a Buckeyes home game!)  They have what is probably our favorite dog park to date!  It’s massive, and one side is all fenced in with a forested area the dogs can run through to their heart’s content, and the other has a huge swimming lake just for dogs, with a dock they can jump off of, and a ramp to help them climb back out.  We spent countless hours watching Pongo enjoy this place! 

We left Knoxville feeling like it could be a real possibility for a potential retirement location. We even made a brief detour through Crossville to visit a community where every house has an RV sized garage! The people there were so friendly, but in the end we decided we didnt’ want to live in that type of neighborhood.

Since it was nearing the end of October, we felt it was time to start making our way south before the weather turned too cold, so I’ll end it here for now.

Next up: An impulse buy of epic proportions!

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