Saturday, October 28: Today is a crisp fall day, just the kind of day I love and the kind that has been slow in coming this year. It’s been unseasonably warm throughout October, and now, thank goodness, it’s finally cool. Not cold, but cool enough for a hike.
Mike and I head early to Shenandoah National Park to get ahead of the crowds, arriving at Hawksbill Gap parking lot, already overflowing, by 10:15. We start our hike at the trailhead by 10:30 a.m.
We’re doing the Hawksbill Loop Hike, a 2.9 mile circuit with a 860-feet elevation gain and a 2-hour hiking time. This is a rather short walk in Shenandoah National Park, but it’s just right for our first hike of the season. Everyone who knows me knows I don’t hike in summer; I despise the heat and would rather stay indoors all summer long!
Sadly, the colors of the leaves are not as vibrant up here in the mountains as I hoped they’d be; people say the colors aren’t great because it’s been so warm and wet. Many of the trees are already bare and the leaves underfoot are mostly brown and dead.
I love the rocks covered in moss.
I love the weathered misshapen trees found in the mountains; their shapes are a testament to their steadfast resistance to the elements.
I always love bracket fungi, also known as shelf fungi, with their fruiting bodies, or conks, of interconnected rows. They are mainly found on living or dead trees or coarse woody debris, and sometimes look like mushrooms.
I love the ferns, moss and lichens on the rocks.
Some trees are so hardy that they grow on top of boulders.
ferns and moss
rocks in moss and ferns
a little autumn color
rocks, moss and leaves
the path ahead
moss and leaves
We continue along the path, with moss-covered rocks all around us.
fern and moss
Nearing the summit, we find a lone yellow tree glowing amidst the bare trees.
Many trees and branches are all a-tumble and askew in the forest.
And some of the trees have very strange and convoluted shapes.
We reach one overlook where we can see the valley with Massanutten Mountain on the other side.
view of the valley
views from Hawksbill
Hawksbill is Shenandoah’s highest peak at 4,051 ft. We finally reach the summit, which is packed. People are sitting around eating their picnic lunches. We didn’t bring a lunch because we plan to visit Old Bust Head Brewing Co. for a beer, accompanied by lunch from a food truck.
I love the white trunks and branches of some of the bare trees.
After making our way back down from the summit, we hop in our car and drive along Skyline Drive, stopping at several of the overlooks.
Mike at an overlook
Every once in a while, we find some brighter splashes of color.
At Old Bust Head Brewing Co., we eat nachos and chili from a food truck. Mike has a Chukker, or Czech Style Pilsner, which he got addicted to on our trip to Czech Republic, while I have an Apricot Belgian Wit. There’s a lot of activity at the brewery today because it’s overflowing with bikers from The Great Pumpkin Ride. This ride is sponsored by the Fauquier Trails Coalition, a non-profit organization, and is a fundraiser to extend and connect existing trails in scenic Fauquier County. It has options for 32, 53 or 67 miles.
I’m glad I got an October hike in before month-end. Steps today: 11,108 (4.71 miles). Now we have to find one for November!
Tuesday, October 31: It’s time for our October cocktail hour, and I’m ecstatic that the weather is finally getting cooler, the air is becoming more crisp, and the leaves are shouting their last vibrant hurrah before winter sets in. Farm market displays are bursting with fresh apples, pumpkins, gourds and pumpkin & apple butter. Everywhere in suburban yards, straw scarecrows stand on sticks, ghosts float overhead on tree branches, gravestones and skulls lurk in the shadows. It’s my favorite time of year, and on top of the normal October pleasures, I celebrated another birthday on October 25. I’m now the venerable age of 62, but still feeling much younger than that truth-telling number.
Topping off everything else, yesterday morning, there were the Mueller indictments. I don’t plan to say much about it here, but suffice it to say, this was a fantastic belated birthday present. I hope it will be the gift that keeps on giving!
Please come in and take one of my Pottery Barn furry blankets. Wrap yourself up; we’ll sit out on the screened-in porch. It’s cool but not yet too cold. While on our trip, Mike and I became a bit addicted to local Czech beers, especially Pilsner Urquell and Budějovický (Budweiser) Budvar. Mike managed to find the Pilsner Urquell here in the U.S., so I have those to offer. We also have red and white wines, seltzer water and orange juice (always a refreshing combination for those of you who don’t drink), Vanilla Coke Zero, sparkling water and of course my old standby, Bud Light Lime. 🙂
I hope October has been good to you so far. Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, binge-watched any television series? Have you been to the theater or to a concert? Have you encountered any new songs? Have you welcomed any visitors? Have you wandered or journeyed; have you dreamed any dreams? Have you had any massages? Gone to any exotic restaurants, cooked any new dishes? Have you embarked on any new endeavors?
Our first week in October was the second week of our two-week holiday to Hungary, Austria and Czech Republic. From October 1st on, we were in Czech Republic, namely Český Krumlov and Prague, and we returned home on October 7. I’ve been writing, slowly but surely, about our trip on my Europe blog: in search of a thousand cafes.
At the same time, I’m alternating writing about my last 10 days in Japan (catbird in japan). It’s all slow going, but eventually the story will be told. 🙂 Throughout the month, I continued to follow Jill’s Scene, who just completed the Camino de Santiago in late October. She and her husband started the 800km walk in early September; I still have dreams of doing it myself in September-October of 2018. I continued to add to my notes about her journey, the weather and challenges she encountered. I haven’t wavered in my dream to do this next year.
As for books, I’m way behind on my goal to read 40 books in 2017. I basically didn’t read much of anything the four months I was in Japan. I was simply too busy. But as of this month, I’ve managed to read 20 books, finishing Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner, which I enjoyed, and How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway, which was okay.
On the plane to Budapest and the flight back from Prague, I binge-watched the Emmy-award winning HBO mini-series Big Little Lies, which I loved. Listening to the opening credits soundtrack repeatedly, I became enamored of the song Cold Little Heart by Michael Kiwanuka. Now I’ve added it to my October playlist on Spotify. On my daily 3-mile walks, I listen to my various soundtracks, including that song, ad infinitum, as well as the podcast Modern Love from the New York Times column of the same name, hosted by Meghna Chakrabarti (WBUR).
Strangely, I haven’t seen one movie in the cinema this month, but Mike and I did see Native Gardens at Arena Stage in Washington on October 14. Appropriately themed as a reflection of our current antagonistic political environment in Washington, the play is about two neighbors, an older stodgy white couple, the Butleys and a young couple of Latino background, the Del Valles (the husband is Chilean and the pregnant wife a native New Mexican). There’s a generation gap, a cultural gap, and a gap in the actual property line; when the Del Valles want to quickly replace the decrepit fence between the properties so they can have an outdoor BBQ for the husband’s law firm, a surveyor finds their property line goes another couple of feet into the Butleys’ yard, encroaching on Frank Butley’s beloved garden. A huge altercation ensues addressing issues of race, environment, and politics. Entertaining as pure surface comedy, it didn’t address in a serious way the actual political divisions we face in our country today.
Our youngest son Adam left for Melbourne, Australia right before we went on our holiday. He went for nearly a month to visit his girlfriend, Maddy, who he met in Hawaii. He informed us the day before he returned that he was bringing Maddy home with him. He had hinted at this before he left, but I didn’t know if it would actually happen. I went to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) to pick them up on Wednesday evening, October 18, and since I arrived early to avoid the Beltway traffic, I spent an hour or so having a light dinner at Season 52 at Columbia Mall. Here’s a musical sculpture at the mall.
Adam, keen to show Maddy all around in one fell swoop, wore himself out quickly and ended up in excruciating pain from rupturing his eardrum, leaving poor Maddy to fend for herself. I told him that no matter how bad he felt, she was his guest and he was obligated to take care of her.
Despite the fact that, before he left for Australia, he was being disciplined, working hard, saving money and doing some interesting podcasts while taking a course on making podcasts, after he returned, he was suddenly ill, making no effort to return to work, and had his girlfriend here (who is very nice and seems to have a good head on her shoulders, by the way!). In my eyes, he was shirking all his duties and the promises he made to us to have a full-time job if we allowed him to live at home. Every day that he’s not moving forward in his life, career-wise, makes me feel like he’s completely irresponsible and we are total failures as parents, not demanding enough from him or having high enough expectations. Not only that, but feeding into the tension I feel is my fear he will be as indecisive as I have always been about my career. All of this has made for a tense atmosphere in the house since October 21, although I had to force myself let go of my anger and frustration and just accept that he is sick and his girlfriend will leave soon and he can get back to figuring out his life.
It’s so challenging to be a parent, especially when I had such horrible role models and when I seem to have no natural instincts for parenting.
Alex came down from Richmond and since Adam was sick and Maddy wanted to stay with him, Mike, Alex and I enjoyed a pleasant evening at Artie’s in Fairfax on the evening before my birthday. On my birthday, a Wednesday, Adam and Maddy invited me to go with them to sit at a park and then pick up pumpkins, but I can’t say I enjoyed it as the day was on their terms and I felt annoyed that I didn’t do what I wanted, which was to go see a movie.
The day after my birthday, I escaped the house and went to Baltimore to see my sister Joan, who was babysitting her 9-month-old grandson Elliott at my niece Kelsey’s house. It was fun to finally meet my little great-nephew, to have lunch out with Joan and Elliott, and to see Kelsey when she got home from work.
Kelsey and Elliot
Kelsey, Elliot and me
After my visit, I stopped in Bethesda, Maryland to have White Sangria and tapas at my favorite restaurant there, Jaleo. After dinner, I went to the Writer’s Center to hear an interview of author Alice McDermott by Bob Levey of The Washington Post. I always get inspired listening to writers talk. 🙂
On Friday night, Mike and I went out on our own to celebrate my birthday at Nostos Restaurant, which, according to the website presents a “fresh, modern take on Greek culinary culture.” “Nostos” is at the root of the word nostalgia and means a return to one’s origins, a longing for a special time in the past; the restaurant attempts to stimulate senses with a variety of traditional and new Greek dishes.
We ordered an array of mezedes, including: Avgolemono Soup (traditional chicken soup with egg lemon finish), Greek Beans (northern beans with scallions, parsley, olive oil and lemon), Garides Saganaki (sautéed shrimp with feta cheese, tomatoes, pine nuts and raisins), Haloumi Skaras (grilled Cypriot sheep and goat cheese served with greek style taboule).
Mike ordered an entrée of Mousaka (layers of thinly sliced baby eggplant, zucchini, potatoes and seasoned ground beef topped with a rich béchamel).
We shared all the dishes, accompanied by wine and dessert (Portokalopita: orange cake with vanilla ice cream). They brought out the cake with one candle, which I had to blow out. I was glad there weren’t 62 candles!
On Saturday, Mike and I went on a hike at Hawksbill Gap in Shenandoah National Park. Here are a few pictures of our hike, but I’ll write more about it in a separate post.
Hawksbill Gap summit
yellow trees at Hawksbill Gap
At the summit, we had great views of the valley. It has been unseasonably warm this October, so it didn’t seem the leaves were yet at their peak.
We went out to Lebanese Taverna for yet another family birthday dinner on Monday night, this time with Mike’s sister Barbara, Adam and Maddy.
And finally, to end the month, Adam and Maddy carved their Halloween pumpkins.
We had a couple of visitors on Halloween night, including one particularly funny group of dinosaurs.
Happy Halloween and happy autumn. Please do tell me about your month! I hope it’s been a good one. 🙂
Monday, September 4: The first Monday in September is Labor Day in the USA, and the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend marks the unofficial end of summer. The federal holiday honors the American labor movement and contributions that workers have made to the well-being of the country.
Because Mike has the day off, we drive into D.C. to walk around Cleveland Park’s Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
As we walk around the neighborhood, we see art deco and modernist facades, as well as homes built in the Arts & Crafts style, brick rowhouses, mission-style homes, Colonial revivals, and neoclassical mansions. We see fabulous porches, turrets, columns, screened-in porches, white picket fences, pergolas, as well as beautifully manicured lawns.
In the 1890s, when electric streetcars arrived on Wisconsin and Connecticut avenues, Cleveland Park became a popular upscale “streetcar suburb,” according to The Washington Post. President Grover Cleveland (1837 – 1908), the USA’s 22nd and 24th president, also built a summer home on Macomb Street. He was the only president in American history to serve two non-consecutive terms in office.
Many of the homes here are extraordinary. It’s fun to walk through this shady and hilly neighborhood.
Reflecting our divisive political climate, we find signs in yards such as: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.” The signs are written in several languages.
As part of the resistance, I’m happy to find like-minded Americans who don’t want to be associated with our current president, his base, or their white supremacist notions.
After a while, we reach Wisconsin Avenue, where we decide to stop for lunch. We have several options, including Cactus Cantina and Cafe Deluxe. We choose Cafe Deluxe.
At Cafe Deluxe, we sit outside on the patio and eat Apple Brie Flatbread and assorted sides including mac & cheese, succotash and asparagus & corn.
After lunch, we walk down Wisconsin to Washington National Cathedral. We always come here to see the crèche collection every Christmas Eve; this is one rare time we see it during the summer.
Washington National Cathedral is an Episcopal Church cathedral of 20th century American Gothic style closely modeled on English Gothic style of the late fourteenth century. The foundation stone was laid on September 29, 1907 in the presence of President Theodore Roosevelt and a crowd of more than 20,000. The “final finial” was placed 83 years later in the presence of President George H.W. Bush in 1990, according to Wikipedia: Washington National Cathedral.
We even see the Bishop’s Garden in bloom, which we never see when we come at Christmas.
lily pond in the garden
smatterings of pink
flowers in the garden
in the garden
While walking in the garden, I overhear a frumpy old white man say, “I don’t know what the problem is with Melania wearing high heels down to Houston after the hurricane. It shows she has some class.” SMH. Dream on, Mister.
The Cathedral is both the second-largest church building in the United States and the fourth tallest structure in Washington, D.C. The scaffolding seen in the photo is for ongoing repairs since the 2011 earthquake.
We walk back through different streets in Cleveland Park to return to our car.
My novel, still unpublished, is set mainly in this neighborhood, as well as in Egypt and France. 🙂
Friday, September 22: Cheers! It’s time for our early September mini-cocktail hour, but I’m afraid you’ll have to enjoy it without me. You can lift your glass of sparkling champagne as we fly off into the skies for our holiday in Eastern Europe: Budapest, Sopron, Vienna, Český Krumlov, and finally, Prague. 🙂
I hope September has been good to you so far. Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, watched any hilarious comedy shows? Have you wandered or journeyed; have you dreamed any dreams? Have you had any massages? Gone to any exotic restaurants, cooked any new dishes? Have you embarked on any new endeavors?
I’ve been spending most of my time editing pictures and writing my Japan posts (catbird in japan), and I’m still nowhere close to being done. I also recently started following a woman named Jill at Jill’s Scene who is doing the Camino de Santiago. She and her husband started the 800km walk in early September; I have dreams of doing it myself in September of 2018. I’ve created a spreadsheet and am taking notes about her journey, the weather and challenges she encounters, anything notable about her experience. I want to be purposeful about it, as I’ve dreamed of doing it for a long time and I need to make that dream a reality.
I’ve been bingeing on spreadsheets. I used to keep my travel wish list in a yellow spiral notebook which I’ve somehow misplaced. I always wrote it in pencil and had to keep erasing things and changing them. It was a mess. In September, I finally created a big spreadsheet called My Travel Wish List. The column headers are: Time of Year (the four seasons), Months, Year, My age, Mike’s age, Region, Countries, Places, What to do there, Who with, Estimated Cost. The spreadsheet covers the places I’ve already been and the places I want to go each season until I’m 90 years old! The places I’ve already been are highlighted in blue, while the spreadsheet from age 80-90 is highlighted in purple. Frankly, I’d like to believe I’ll still be traveling from age 80-90, but realistically, I know anything can happen. Besides, two gurus in India once told me I’d only live to 88, so if they’re right, I won’t even be on this earth then!
At the same time, I’ve been reading guidebooks on Hungary, Austria (Vienna), and Czech Republic. At first I was just reading the guidebooks and highlighting what I’d like to see. All the places were becoming a jumbled mess in my mind, so I decided to organize my thoughts. Voila! I created another spreadsheet with our itinerary. How I love spreadsheets! 🙂
Besides my obsession with spreadsheets, I’ve been reading a most uninspiring book, How to be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway. It’s not very compelling, so I only read a few pages each night; however, it’s not so boring that I’d give up on it altogether. I went to see the cute movie, Home Again, starring Reese Witherspoon, but I haven’t had time for many other movies this month. Mike and I did watch The Third Man on Netflix. It’s a 1949 film noir in which pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime. Though it’s all in English, we had to put the subtitles on to understand it! I admit I fell asleep 3/4 of the way through, but we did continue it the next evening. It’s supposedly quite the rage in Vienna, where there is even a Third Man Museum.
We tried out an Ethiopian restaurant not far from us in Herndon, Enatye Ethiopian Restaurant, which doesn’t have much in the way of atmosphere, but it has excellent food. 🙂
On Labor Day, Mike and I took a long walk through a neighborhood called Cleveland Park in Washington. It was a beautiful day, and we ended up having lunch outside at Cafe Deluxe. I haven’t yet written about it, but I intend to soon after we return home.
And, as you can see from the pictures in this post, we also visited the Air Force Memorial on September 10, the same day we visited the Pentagon Memorial. I figure the soaring wing-like shape of this memorial is a perfect symbolic send off for our trip to Europe.
The United States Air Force Memorial honors the service of the men and women of the United States Air Force and its heritage organizations. Three stainless steel spires soar into the sky from the promontory overlooking the Pentagon, reaching heights of 402 feet above sea-level. Granite walls contain inscriptions describing valor and values of aviation pioneers supporting the Air Force and its predecessor military organizations.
The inscriptions for Sacrifice remind us of what brave men sacrificed during World War II to fight the same white supremacist ideas that have reared their ugly heads in today’s world.
One inscription here reads: “We better be prepared to dominate the skies above the surface of the earth or be prepared to be buried beneath it.” ~ General Carl A. “Tooey” Spaatz.
From the hill, we can see the Washington Monument and the Pentagon.
As for our struggles during August, we’ve all recovered. Adam got over his flu and has flown off to Melbourne, Australia to visit his girlfriend for a month. Alex has started classes in a new major, Business Administration, in the hopes of learning how to start his own business one day. He’s also moved into a new apartment.
Sarah’s knee is slowly healing and she’s back at work, after being incapacitated for nearly a month. She’s waiting to hear about a job she applied for with a Richmond magazine. I’m hoping and praying she gets that job. The redness and pain from my spider bite first spread all around my wrist and up through my hand before I started taking an antibiotic. My joints and neck were aching, but a couple of massages helped that. Mike has been healthy throughout the month.
I also went to Richmond to see Alex and Sarah and did what many moms would do: treated Sarah to dinner, took both of them to lunch, and took them both shopping for necessities at Target and Trader Joe’s. 🙂
As you read this, I’ll be in flight over who knows where, in route to Frankfurt. We’ll arrive in Budapest at 9:50 a.m. on Saturday, ready to hit the ground running. If I do manage to post anything about our trip, you’ll find it here: in search of a thousand cafés.
I hope you all enjoy the rest of your September, and I’ll see you back here in early October. 🙂
Monday, March 27: It’s 3:30 a.m. on Monday morning. My bags are packed and I’ll leave in about an hour for BWI airport. My journey to Japan is about to begin. 🙂
This is the fourth time I will have lived and worked abroad. I taught Omani and Chinese university students on my two most recent gigs; the first time, I taught Korean elementary students. I always leave home with excitement and some trepidation, mainly because I never know what the work environment will be like. Each of my experiences has been completely different from the others. I never worry about the travel, because each place offers limitless exploration potential. I’ve rarely been disappointed in my travels. I’ve enjoyed each country in which I’ve lived while at the same time struggling to deal with cultural differences. I think every person should live in another country at least once in his or her life; it’s an eye-opening experience to be a foreigner, a minority, in another land. It gives one an understanding of what immigrants to our country must go through when they embark to the strange world that is America.
I don’t know why, but for this flight they recommend we get to the airport 2 1/2 hours ahead of flight time, which is 7:59 a.m. That seems awfully early to me, but who am I to question these crazy rules?
I made a day trip to Richmond on Monday, March 20, to visit my two kids. Before meeting them, I went for a walk around one of my favorite gardens, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. I got a glimpse of spring here in Virginia, but now I’ll have to leave it behind. I’ll be immersed in Japan for full-on spring and through the heat of the summer. Tokyo’s weather is much like ours – cool and rainy in the spring, hot and humid in summer. It will be similar to Korea’s weather as well.
Inside the conservatory, I found orchids and tropical plants.
Outside, I found a Japanese tea house and garden, a children’s garden and tree house, and a pond.
I hope to see you all in Japan! You can follow my adventures here: catbird in japan.
Friday, January 13: On a beautiful Friday in January, just before I was to begin teaching a 7-week session at VIU, I decided to drive to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia for a morning outing. Before this job dropped into my lap, I had made a schedule for myself that included taking a photo outing every Friday. Despite getting the job at the last-minute and having to prepare two syllabuses and lesson plans, I went out anyway, determined that I wouldn’t allow this job to ruin my personal goals. In the end, the outing caused me a great deal of stress over the weekend. It turned out I would never have time for another Friday outing during the entire 7-week session.
I was glad I went even though it took me longer to drive there than the 1 hr 9 min estimated by MapQuest.
At the Visitor’s Center, I was told there was a 2 1/2 mile hike to the river bluff or a shuttle into the town of Harpers Ferry, where I could get some lunch. I only had time for one or the other, and I was hungry, so I opted for the town. The town is supposedly closed off to cars, so I was required to take the shuttle despite having my car. Later, as I walked through the town, I saw cars driving through, so it was obviously NOT “closed off to cars!”
I was dropped by the shuttle on Shenandoah Street, from which I could see St. Peter’s Catholic Church on the hill overlooking the town.
I walked down the quiet street, looking at the preserved shops from the 1800s.
At the end of Shenandoah Street, I got a glimpse of the John Brown Museum. I didn’t go inside because I didn’t want to take that much time.
The story is this: In October 1859, determined to arm enslaved people and spark rebellion, John Brown and his followers seized the armory and several other strategic points. The raid failed, with most men killed or captured. Brown’s trial and execution focused attention on the issue of slavery and propelled the nation toward civil war. (National Park Service pamphlet)
I walked up High Street, which has shops and restaurants. As it was lunchtime and I was hungry, I searched for a place to grab a bite.
I stopped by the train station to watch some of the trains barrel past.
I ducked into Hannah’s New Orleans Seafood & Southern BBQ for some lunch. It was bright and cheery, and the Bubba Gump Louisiana shrimp fried in Cajun cornmeal was delicious. 🙂
After lunch, I walked back down High Street.
I took the path up to Jefferson Rock. First I came face-to-face with St. Peter’s Catholic Church.
Irish laborers flooded into the Harpers Ferry area during the 1830s to build the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal and the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad. St. Peter’s Catholic Church symbolizes America’s melting pot tradition and the customs, habits, and religion of the early Irish immigrants.
During the Civil War, to protect the church from Union and Confederate shells, Father Costello flew the British Union Jack flag as a symbol of the church’s neutrality. St. Peter’s escaped the war relatively unscathed. The church was remodeled in 1896 and Mass is offered here every Sunday.
Further up the path, I found the ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church, one of Harpers Ferry’s five earliest churches. Built in 1852 with money provided by church fairs, St. John’s served as a hospital and barracks during the Civil War and suffered considerable damage. It was rebuilt afterward, but was abandoned in 1895 when a new Episcopal church was built in the upper town.
Above the ruins sat a pretty house with a grand view.
This is how Thomas Jefferson described the view from Jefferson Rock during a visit to Harpers Ferry in 1783:
“On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Patowmac [Potomac], in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder, and pass off to the sea … This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”
Around 1860, the U.S. armory superintendent ordered red sandstone supports places under “Jefferson Rock” because it was “endangering the lives and properties of the villagers below.”
Going back down the hill, I passed the ruins again.
At this juncture of the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers, George Washington envisioned military strength and chose Harpers Ferry as the site for a U.S. Armory. By the early 1800s, the rivers powered the armory complex and commercial mills. The revolutionary method of manufacturing with interchangeable parts was perfected at the Halls Island rifle factory.
Below is Arsenal Square and the John Brown Museum.
I followed part of the Appalachian Trail from the end of Shenandoah Street across the footbridge to the C&O Canal and Maryland Heights.
There is a lot of train activity at this juncture of the rivers.
Rail transportation in the United States began in Baltimore, Maryland on July 4, 1828, when Charles Carroll, the only living signer of the Declaration of Independence, laid the cornerstone of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
On the same day, President John Quincy Adams turned the first spade of earth along the Potomac River for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.
The race was underway as the progressive railroad and the traditional canal struggled to become the first to connect the Ohio Valley with the east coast. Harpers Ferry was one of the first milestones of that race.
Work on the railroad and canal progressed slowly at first, but by 1834 both companies had completed construction to a point opposite Harpers Ferry. The canal had won the race to this point, and it continued up the Maryland side to the Potomac.
The B&O Railroad, plagued by land disputes with the canal, crossed the Potomac at Harpers Ferry in 1837 and rapidly pushed on. By 1842, it reached Cumberland, Maryland, and a decade later, the railroad was open to Wheeling on the Ohio River.
Business boomed at Harpers Ferry with the arrival of the railroad. Refrigerated cars brought oysters and other luxuries to the town. Thousands of travelers visited Harpers Ferry as it became a gateway to the Ohio Valley.
The Civil War shattered Harpers Ferry’s prosperity. Much of the town was destroyed, and Confederate raiders constantly sabotaged the railroad. Despite the war, the railroad escaped permanent damage, and the B&O survives today as a main artery of transportation in the United States.
On the other side of the footbridge, I saw the path along the C&O Canal, but I didn’t have time to explore it further.
The C&O Canal was burdened by a lack of building supplies and a scarcity of skilled labor and thus encountered serious financial problems. It did not reach Cumberland, Maryland until 1850 — eight years after the railroad reached that point. Plans to continue further westward were abandoned.
Made obsolete by the faster and less expensive railroad, the C&O Canal never attained any great measure of economic success, but it did transport coal, flour, grain, and lumber to Washington for nearly 90 years. Canal operations ceased in 1924 when a flood devastated the Potomac Valley, leaving the canal in ruins.
Today’s view of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers passing through the water gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains has changed little from Meriwether Lewis’ view in 1803. Lewis hoped to find a similar, accessible trade route on rivers passing through the Rocky Mountains.
The first mode of travel consisted of a primitive ferry established in 1733 by Peter Stephens. Stephens sold his business to Robert Harper in 1747, and Harper and others carried settlers and supplied across the waters until 1824 when a bridge constructed across the Potomac made ferryboat operations unnecessary.
In less than a decade after the bridge was completed, the iron horse and the mule brought the transportation revolution to Harpers Ferry.
In 1848, the building now known as John Brown Fort was built as a fire-engine house for the U.S. Armory. On October 16, 1859, it served as a stronghold for John Brown and his raiders, as they were penned into the building by the local militia. U.S. Marines stormed the building at dawn on October 18th and captured Brown. Convicted of murder, treason, and inciting slaves to rebellion, he was hanged in nearby Charles Town on December 2, 1859.
The Fort escaped destruction during the Civil War, but from 1861-1865, it was vandalized by souvenir-hunting Union and Confederate soldier and later travelers. In 1891, it was dismantled and transported to the Chicago Exposition, and in 1895, it was rescued from conversion to a stable and brought back to Harpers Ferry to be exhibited on a farm. Then in 1909, it was purchased by Storer College and moved to campus. Finally, in 1968, it was moved by the National Park Service to within 150 feet of its original location.
After my fun excursion, it was sadly time to return home and get to work on preparing for my classes. I could have explored a lot more. Sadly, it would have to wait for another day.
Saturday, March 4: The last eight weeks have been a whirlwind. Between teaching two intensive ESL courses at Virginia International University (VIU) and at the same time going through a rigorous application process for an EFL job in Japan, I’ve hardly had a moment to breathe. I also had a Skype interview with the English Language Fellow Program, after which I was accepted into the applicant pool. On top of that, I faithfully attended a writing class every Saturday for 6 weeks (although I didn’t get much writing done).
At the beginning of this year, I didn’t have any job prospects and had a year of great possibility stretching out before me. I had ambitious plans to: write my memoir; take writing workshops; get my novel published; look into starting a business organizing creative travel retreats; travel to Croatia, Budapest and Prague; and walk the Camino de Santiago.
Then, my plans were waylaid. Out of the blue, VIU called me in for an interview, despite the fact I had applied in August of 2016, only to be rejected by them at that time. I accepted the job and committed to their short 7-week session. Every time I teach as an adjunct in the USA, I become determined not to do it again because of the amount of work vs. the low pay, coupled with no travel opportunities. Teaching at VIU was great, as far as the students and my colleagues, but the amount of work I spent outside of class was ridiculous. A couple of weeks into the job, I applied for a job in Japan.
Now it seems I’m embarking on a major detour.
This morning, my husband made me laugh so hard I was almost in tears. He said, speaking in third person as if I weren’t right there with him, “my wife – she never knew a detour she wouldn’t take!”
He knows me all too well.
The simple truth is this: I don’t know when to stop.
This aspect of my personality cannot be denied, and it permeates every part of my life. For example, during the recruitment process with Japan, the recruiter interviewed me on Skype on a Wednesday in mid-February for 1 1/2 hours. I thought that would be the end of it, but at the end of the interview, he said he thought I might be a good fit for a particular program. In order to be considered for it, I needed to prepare two 45-minute lesson plans as soon as possible. Those were dreaded words, because, perfectionist that I am, I knew that I would spend hours and hours on those two lesson plans. By gosh, I already had tons of work to do in my classes at VIU.
At the end of the Skype interview, I said to the recruiter, “Could you please let me know if I will no longer be considered for the job before the weekend? Because I already know I will spend hours on these lesson plans and I’d rather not prepare them if you’ve already decided against me.”
He said, “No, sorry, it’s impossible to let you know that before this weekend.”
This meant that I had to complete the plans on the upcoming weekend. In the end, I spent literally 6 hours preparing two 45-minute lesson plans!
Call me crazy? Sure, if you like. It’s probably true.
The same thing happened when it came time to prepare the final exams for my two classes. Several teachers gave me old exams to use, but as I studied them, I realized I hadn’t taught certain things that were on their exams, and their exams didn’t cover certain things I had emphasized. Thus I spent the entire last weekend in February recreating the final exams for both classes.
On Monday morning, I went into my Reading & Writing class and said to my students, “I’m exhausted! I just spent all weekend making up your final exam.”
One of my Nigerian students who has quite a sense of humor got a panicked look on his face. He dramatically put his face into this hands and said, “Oh no, teacher! If it took you all weekend to prepare the exam, it will take us four hours to take it!” Everyone in the class burst out laughing.
The exam went almost as he predicted. It was way too ambitious. Though the class is only 2 hours and 20 minutes long, meaning the exam should have taken no longer than that, some students were taking the exam for a full 3 hours.
Ouch! I felt so bad for my poor students. Stoic as always, they soldiered through and did pretty well anyway. I had to be a little lenient in grading some of the more time-consuming aspects of the exam, but we managed to survive unscathed.
How do you stop a person who doesn’t know when to stop?
When I got the job offer to teach in Japan, at a university somewhere in Kanagawa Prefecture (the exact location has yet to be revealed), I had to acknowledge that I read the 29-page handbook that tells about the 9-hour workdays, possible 30-90 minute commutes on crowded trains, the high expectations, the dress code (including the requirement of wearing pantyhose – ugh!), and numerous stringent rules and regulations about working in Japan. After signing the contract and reading the handbook, I said to Mike, “What am I getting myself into?”
Mike says, and I’m sure his prediction will be right, that when I get to Japan, I’ll be saying “Oh my gosh! What have I gotten myself into?”
I had to send a professional photo to their specifications. Here’s the best I could do!
My husband continued with his “roast” of me this morning. “My wife is the only person I know who puts 20 things on a to-do list each day and doesn’t even consider the possibility that it will take 40 hours to do the things on the list. And then when the day is over, rather than congratulating herself on the 5 things she did accomplish, she berates herself for the 15 things she didn’t do.”
Oh dear. He’s a funny guy. He’s going to miss making fun of me during the four months (one semester) I’ll be in Japan.
He might also miss me during 10 month period beginning in September, IF I get the English Language Fellowship, which is still looming out there until early summer. They can offer me a fellowship anytime from now until June for a 10-month position anywhere in the world for the 2017-2018 academic year. Of course, there is no guarantee I’ll be offered the fellowship.
In which case, I can still either go to Croatia, Budapest and Prague, OR I can do the Camino de Santiago. 🙂
My husband thinks I’m the busiest person he’s ever known, bursting with energy at 5:30 a.m. on the weekend mornings, antsy to get up and get going with my day. Much to his dismay.
I finished up my classes at VIU on Thursday, March 2, and submitted my grades on Friday, so my time at VIU is over. I now have to complete a 7-10 hour eLearning course in preparation for Japan. I also need to get my Japanese visa, read as many books as I can about Japan, buy a new Kindle to load a bunch of books onto, get a new work wardrobe and a bunch of pantyhose (ugh again), buy a new computer, go to a couple of doctor appointments, and, on top of that, show up for jury duty this coming Wednesday. I’ve already bought my plane tickets for Japan, leaving Monday, March 27 and returning on August 8, one week after my contract ends on August 1. I can’t stay longer than that, sadly, just in case I get that fellowship.
I don’t know why I’m made up the way I am. But Mike is right when he says I never knew a detour I wouldn’t take. I would add a caveat: I’ll take the detour as long as it offers me some of the things I love. When an opportunity to travel, or to live and work abroad, falls into my lap, how can I possibly resist?