Tag Archives: Washington

A final goodbye at Arlington

A final goodbye at Arlington


Evelyn, Mike’s mum, passed away in early 2012.  She was in her 80s and had suffered from dementia for the entire six years I’d known her.

Despite her memory issues, she was a lovely, vibrant woman.  She had silvery hair, large, expressive eyes, and an easy, hearty laugh.  I occasionally caught glimpses of the woman she was before the disease gained its foothold.  She’d be feisty and funny, and I could picture her overseeing a household of boys and one adopted girl as well as the assorted cousins that would come over for Sunday dinner.

When I first started dating Mike, on the weekends, I would bring a big suitcase over to the house he shared with his mum and his brother Patrick.  Along with clothes and toiletries, I always packed several Z Bars for me and Evelyn.  She loved the chocolaty, kid-friendly nutrition bars as much as I did.  Maybe because we were both kids at heart.  I’d make us each a cup of tea and perch on the arm of her easy chair while we sipped and munched and shared stories.  I’d rub her back, and sometimes, if I’d had a bad day, she’d rub mine and tell me it’d be okay.

When Evelyn couldn’t be left alone anymore, Mike and Patrick were faced with how to watch her 24/7 when they both worked.  Unfortunately, she made too much money for assistance but too little to pay for the type of nursing home facility that can take care of dementia patients.  A godsend came in the form of one their cousins who lived in California.  Collette, a stay-at-home grandma, and her family were able to take Evelyn in, and they were close enough that we could still easily visit.  I would send Evelyn homemade cards with photos and news from our crazy life.  When Mike and I got married in 2009, one of Collette’s granddaughters brought Evelyn to Vegas so she could be there to celebrate with us.  One of my most treasured photos is of Evelyn with her own three granddaughters.  She’s in purple; the girls are wearing satin sheaths in varying jewel tones, and they’re all beautiful.

Once Mike got his pilot’s license, we would fly from Vegas to California, pick Evelyn up and take her to the bookstore.  She loved Danielle Steel, so we’d buy her the author’s latest installment.  It didn’t matter if she’d already read it.  She wouldn’t remember, so it’d be new to her regardless.  After that, we’d take her to dinner and have those heartbreaking conversations where the same questions were asked over and over again.  When we would leave her to return home, she’d cry and beg to be taken home to be with her boys.  We would explain, but no words could take away the sadness in her eyes.  I felt so badly for Mike at those times.  It was crushing for him to see her like that and to have to leave her behind.

After Evelyn passed, we went through her things.  I found all the cards I’d sent her, all the gifts I’d given her like the picket fence picture frame and the box with the bold flower print that once contained lemony tea bags.  She had saved it all.  I bawled like a baby, and  I still do when I think about it.

Mike’s dad, for whom he’s named, was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in 2003, and it was Evelyn’s wish that we reunite her with her husband of over 50 years.  It took more than a year for Mike’s, Patrick’s and their older brother Raymond’s schedules to sync up, so we didn’t make it to Arlington until late September 2013.  Before the ceremony, we toured the cemetery.  We talked and walked and marveled at the history of the place.  The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns was particularly moving.

Finally, the moment came for us to bid Evelyn a final goodbye.  The chaplain’s ceremony was short and as heartfelt as he could make it for someone he didn’t know.  Raymond had brought along a picture and a small elephant to be buried with her.  Elephants were another thing Evelyn and I had in common.   She collected them, and I still do, although I’ve yet to find a place for all of them in the RV.

Before we left Evelyn for the last time, I touched both the photo and the trinket at the gravesite.  I am so grateful to have known this amazing, beautiful woman and so honored that she allowed me the privilege of loving her son.  Rest in peace, Evelyn.  You will always be in our hearts.












The Undy 5000

The Undy 5000


Because we were having such a wonderful time with Grant, Barbie and their daughter Catie in Virginia Beach, we didn’t make it to DC to do the Diva Dash.  Instead, I ended up doing the Undy 5000 a week later.  It wasn’t an obstacle race, but it was notable because it was my first event with a dog.  While Mike and Sadie cheered from the sidelines, our little athlete Meeko was my running buddy.  He did great.  At the halfway mark, I joked with the race volunteers that if Meeko was running by himself, we’d already have finished.



The Undy 5000 is a family-friendly, dog-friendly 5K run/walk that was created by the Colon Cancer Alliance as a fundraising event.  All through the course there are informational placards about colon cancer, and the finish area has a giant blow-up colon showing how malignant polyps and advanced cancer look.  Participants are encouraged to run in their “undies” to bring attention to the area affected by colon cancer.  We were so busy doing stuff in DC that I didn’t have a chance to go shopping for a top-notch costume.  So, the night before the race, I created an outfit with a polka-dotted tank top, lace-trimmed boxer shorts, and striped tights.  Not my best look, but it worked.  Meeko was the real star of the show anyway.



The race was held in Rock Creek Park.  Not only is the park stunning, but it also has quite a history.

For millennia, American Indians quarried rock outcroppings to make tools, fished the creek, and hunted wild game in the woodlands. In the 1600s and early 1700s, European Americans claimed title to the land. As tobacco farming and African American slavery became more widespread, Georgetown was chartered at the mouth of Rock Creek. In the late 1700s and into the 1800s, tobacco farming exhausted the soil, resulting in many farmers switching to wheat and corn production. Gristmills, the most successful being Peirce Mill, were constructed along Rock Creek to convert grain into flour.

The Rock Creek area was deforested during the U.S. Civil War. Logs and branches were felled and then laid out systematically throughout the soon-to-be park by Union soldiers to make a Confederate march through the valley impossible. Civil War fortifications in and around the valley bombarded General Jubal Early’s Confederate troops during the July, 1864 Battle of Fort Stevens.

In 1890, Rock Creek Park became one of the first federally managed parks. Since then, citizens seeking recreation and re-creation in nature have sought out this 1700 acre park.

Doing events like this is one of the many wonderful things about our nomadic lifestyle.  I am fortunate to run in lovely, historic places all around the country, places I’d normally never get to experience.






Dinner at Mamma’s

Dinner at Mamma’s


Food and family are always intertwined – but never more so than when we had dinner with Mike’s brothers Patrick and Raymond on the evening they arrived in the D.C. area.  They had flown in from Vegas and Cheyenne, Wyoming, respectively, to join Mike and me for their mum’s interment at Arlington National Cemetery the next day.  We would be reuniting Evelyn with her husband of over 50 years who’d died in 2003.  She’d passed away in early 2012, and it’d taken until now for everyone’s schedules to match up.

I Googled our eating options that night and found Mamma Lucia, an Italian place close to our campground and Patrick and Raymond’s hotel.  It didn’t click at the time, but I now realize that the choice significant.

First. the name.  We ate at Mamma’s the night before burying their mama.  Then, the choice of Italian food.  Their dad was full Italian.  He was known for his homemade meatballs, which he prepared every week for Sunday dinner.

With a simple and unplanned meal, we gathered as a family, paying tribute to a very special couple and celebrating Evelyn’s life one last time before finally laying her to rest.




Baking it to the streets

Baking it to the streets


Vegas’ food trucks have been plentiful and celebrated for the last couple of years, so I’m not new to the food truck phenomenon.  However, I was intrigued by the lines of food trucks on the National Mall in D.C.  In Vegas, they’re usually only gathered in one spot for special events.

FroYo.  Popcorn.  Pretty standard fare.  American food?  Burgers and onion rings apparently qualify.  Lebanese food out of a truck?  Interesting!

The one I liked the best, though, was Curbside Cupcakes.  First, it was a pink truck.  Love it!  Then, the clever alliteration.  Too cute!  It was also a relief that only three flavors were offered: Red Velvet, Chocolate Delight, and Vanilla Bean.  Too many options equal too much time spent deciding on the side of the road.

After the heat of the jalapenos in my lunch at Elephant & Castle, I thought Vanilla Bean would be a refreshing choice, and I was right.  The vanilla flavor was spot on, and the dark flecks in the frosting made me feel fancy.  The ratio of frosting to cake was ideal.

It was gone by the time we finished our walk back to the parking garage.






Elephant & Castle

Elephant & Castle


The headquarters of Elephant & Castle Pub and Restaurants is in Boston, but there are locations scattered around the U.S. and in Canada.  One of the D.C. locations is on Pennsylvania Avenue, close to the Old Post Office Pavilion where our bicycle tour began and ended.  Proximity wasn’t what drew me to the place, though.  I collect elephants so this was a chance to add to my collection without taking up space in the RV.

Elephant & Castle is a British-style pub and eatery filled with dark woods and reproduction fabric-covered books with gilt edges.  Stained glass panels separate sections of seating and provide some privacy between parties.

Tucked into a cozy booth, we started with fried pickles.  The tangy, crunchy planks were served with a chipotle dipping sauce.  My mac-n-cheese had a kick from chopped jalapenos.  The panko crust on top was a nice contrast to the creamy cheese sauce and al dente elbows.  We were surprised when Mike’s meatloaf came in slices.  He liked it, especially because the gravy didn’t have mushrooms.  I ended up bringing his asparagus home along with the remaining half of my pasta.

Elephant & Castle has good, reasonably priced food in a comfortable atmosphere.  A pleasant place for a nosh if you’re down on the Mall in D.C.




Cherry Hill Park (College Park, MD)

Cherry Hill Park (College Park, MD)


We picked Cherry Hill Park campground in College Park, Maryland, because it was the closest park to D.C.  We were in town to inter Mike’s mum with his dad, who was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in 2003.  Evelyn passed away in early 2012, but it took a while for the family’s schedules to sync up so we could reunite Evelyn with her husband of over 50 years.

Cherry Hill is a pretty park.  The office and camp store has generous hours – from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Staff is friendly and helpful.  We drove our Jeep into the city, but you don’t have to if you stay at Cherry Hill.  Transportation is available from the campground multiple times daily, and the staff can direct you to the tour that’s best for your needs.  Only minutes outside the park grounds are a grocery store, a Starbucks, a home improvement store and a variety of restaurants.  After all your running around, you can take a relaxing hike along the Nature Trail at the edge of the park.

There are spots for every type of rig at  Cherry Hill, and the list of amenities is long:

  • 400 RV and tenting campsites with water, sewer and electric hookups
  • Sites are open year round.
  • 30- or 50-amp service
  • Handicap accessible
  • Restrooms with hot showers
  • Pets are welcome, and a pet walking service is available.
  • Carpeted laundry room with 19 washers and 20 dryers
  • Free Wi-Fi which was pretty reliable and reasonably fast while we were there
  • Cable TV
  • Miniature golf
  • Playground
  • Game room/Arcade
  • Large screen TV lounge with fireplace
  • Two swimming pools
  • Hot tub and sauna
  • Nature trail
  • Propane refills
  • Firewood
  • On-site Star Café and Grill that’s open until 9 p.m.
  • A camp store with groceries, souvenirs, gifts, t-shirts, and lots of RV supplies
  • Free movies, shown seasonally, in the Starlight outdoor theatre













Hanging out at the Mall

Hanging out at the Mall


A bicycle is a great way to explore a city, particularly when there’s a guide pedaling with you, sharing history and pointing out interesting facts.  Bike and Roll offers bicycle and Segway tours in five major metropolitan areas.  In Washington D.C., there are several tours available out of three different locations.  Mike and I took the Capital Sites tour, which departs from the Old Post Office Pavilion near the National Mall.

We were there just before the government shutdown, so everything was open.  (There was, however, a lot of activity on Capitol Hill.  I guess it wasn’t very productive, though.)  Riding Trek comfort hybrid bikes, we went from one end of the National Mall to the other, stopping along on the way as our guide filled us in on what we were seeing.  We rode by the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court and a variety of Smithsonian Museums as well as visiting the World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument, and more.

Our favorite memorial was the Korean War Memorial.  Nineteen life-size soldiers, scattered over a triangle of grass, are reflected in a large wall.  The nineteen and their reflections create 38 people, signifying the 38th Parallel, the latitudinal line that forms the boundary between North Korea and South Korea.  While most of the other memorials are very grand and almost overwhelming in their scope, this memorial is very intimate.  The soldiers stare haggardly in all different directions.  You can almost see them coming out of the bush, looking like deformed giants because of the ponchos covering the gear they’re carrying.  The wall itself is laser etched with faces taken from real footage. It’s a powerful remembrance.

For $40, which included a bottle of water and a granola bar, we covered over 7.5 miles of territory on our Bike and Roll tour and learned a lot about our nation’s history.  It was a wonderful and emotional experience.













Air and Space

Air and Space


Our next stop after hanging out with Grant and Barbie was Washington, D.C.  We were in town to inter Mike’s mum with his dad, who was buried in Arlington in 2003.  Evelyn passed away in early 2012, but it took a while for all of our schedules to sync up so we could reunite her with her husband of over 50 years.

Although the reason for the visit was bittersweet, we managed to fit in some fun.  With Mike’s passion for all things flying-related, a trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., was a “must do”.   Luckily, we were in D.C. right before the shutdown, so all the museums were open.

Of course, Mike was in aviation ecstasy the moment he stepped inside the Air and Space doors.  🙂  I was pretty excited, too, especially about the Wright Brothers exhibit – coming so close on the heels of our visit to First Flight.  While were at Air and Space, we saw two movies in the IMAX theatre: Air Racers (which was in 3D) and To Fly!  Both were good and gave our feet a nice rest after all the walking.

(The Instagram photos were taken by me.  The others were taken by Mike.)