Dad's Visit to the USA

28th August - 11th September 2006

It was decided that at the age of 76, it was high time for Joe, Christine's father, to make his first excursion to the United States.   So, in addition to their regular summer time squatters, Phil and Christine's friends, Woody and Janine, generously extended their wonderful hospitality (and their other guest room) to accommodate Joe for his two week adventure in America.  Use of the guest room meant we didn't have to try to find room aboard Anju, amongst all our junk, to accommodate Joe for the duration of his visit.    In addition Greg and Shirley were still kindly allowing us use of their car, making touring considerably easier.  

Phil and Christine had spent the month of August in the UK to celebrate two momentous events, Christine's big 4-0 and the birth of Phil's third grandchild, Gareth, so it was the perfect time for Joe's visit, as we could all fly to the USA together.   

The journey back to Annapolis was a long one, with a six hour stop-over in Boston.   This was made no more comfortable by a complete lack of bathrooms in the terminal, meaning that if you needed to make a visit, you had to pass out and back in through the security checkpoint each time and repeat all the security screening. Refreshments available in the American Eagle terminal consisted of a vending machine and a coffee machine, which during our long visit had no coffee in it.   The icing on the cake, when we finally boarded our now delayed flight, was to find the bathroom on the airplane inoperable.   We were certainly glad to arrive!

Once Joe had settled in to his luxury resort accommodation, our first day trip with Janine was to the spectacular National Aquarium in Baltimore.   The walkway through the museum, laid out as a descending spiral, took you through all different types of natural water habitats, including tropical coral reef aquarium, where all the "coral" was environmentally friendly but very convincing fake coral.  We were even able to visit a rainforest in the centre of Baltimore.   Lunch was the traditional American hot dog, just to help Joe acclimatise. 

Next day, we dragged Joe and Janine on another adventure, a visit to Washington DC, where we rode around the city on the sightseeing bus to take in all the famous landmarks in the city.    By the end of the trip we'd seen so many Presidential Memorials that we were becoming confused about which monument was for which president, but luckily there wasn't a test.  Joe was introduced to the Smithsonian Museums, which were all free of charge, with a visit to the American History Museum.

The following day, we dinghied Dad out to visit Anju and inspect all the changes we'd made since his last visit in 2003.   Shortly thereafter, our plans were rudely interrupted by the arrival of Tropical Storm Ernesto during dinner back at the house.   Fortunately we'd just finished cooking when the power went out and after dining by candlelight, Phil and Christine decided it would be prudent to spend the night aboard Anju, to ensure nothing went awry in the 40 knot winds and torrential rain.    By the time the dinghy was bailed out (it was almost filled to the top with rainwater) and we'd made the perilous crossing to Anju in the high winds, we were both soaked to the skin.   We then raced around deck, lashing down everything that was threatening to be on the move and finally retreated below.   After quite a while keeping anchor watch and worrying about what we'd do if we did start to drag in such a small, shallow area, all seemed fine on deck, so we enjoyed the luxury of having our own power supply aboard and were able to watch TV whilst wondering how our hosts and Joe were faring in the dark.   

We arose the next morning to the relative calm after the storm, although the rain was still pouring down.   On emerging on deck, we discovered that other neighbouring boats hadn't fared as well on their moorings, as Anju had on her anchors.    Next to us a powerboat had washed right by Anju sometime during the night and ended up in somebody's garden and a sailboat was aground at the other end of the creek.    After checking the local news on TV so, of course, that we could appraise our friends of what was happening (no, we weren't gloating that we could watch TV and they couldn't), we made our way back to Woody and Janine's.   We were just in the nick of time to catch them and Joe climbing into the car for a trip to Denny's diner for breakfast.  Power had still not been restored to the neighbourhood and we didn't make it far before we found out why.   A large tree had fallen, not only over the main powerline, but also over the only exit road from the area.   The trip to Denny's had to be abandoned and we were forced to return to Woody and Janine's for a breakfast of cake. 


Don't panic guys but there's no way out to Denny's for breakfast!

Other people were left with bigger worries!

Woody and Joe ready for breakfast at Denny's

The day was filled with a selection of card games for some and for others, namely Woody and Joe, commissioning the generator in the basement to supply the house with power until the main supply was restored.  At least it would mean we could save the contents of the freezer and cook again.   

Finally the tree was removed, we were able to escape from the darkness of Herald Harbor for a serious evening of ice-cream eating in Annapolis.    Power was finally restored early the following morning.   It was all quite an adventure for an Englishman abroad. 

Finally we, and it seemed most of the rest of the population of Annapolis, made it to Denny's for the long-awaited breakfast.

As was now traditional, British visitors to Janine's house do not get away without some kind of special assignment.   In the case of Joe, an electrical engineer, the task was to assist in the hanging of chandeliers at Stephanie's room at this year's Ellicott City Historical Society's decorator showhouse!   

We took advantage of the Labor Day holiday on the 4th September and the resulting lack of traffic on routes into Washington DC, to make a trip to the Air and Space museum at Dulles Airport.  This was another of the Smithsonian museums, where an impressive collection of historical and modern aircraft were beautifully displayed, many suspended overhead, in a large hanger.

It seemed however, that Joe hadn't seen enough of flight history and was so impressed with the Dulles museum, that the following day we made a trip into DC on the train to visit the Air and Space Museum's main and equally impressive site in the heart of the city.

Joe inspecting the Space Shuttle

Enough of things aeronautical, it was time for something simply nautical, so we took a very interesting tour of the famous Annapolis Naval Academy.    Our visit was at just the right time to catch the spectacle of the daily parade, where all the cadets line up ready to head to the dining hall for lunch.    On our way to see the parade, we were surprised to come across two cadets chanting the weeks' menu at high speed and volume near the parade ground.   Apparently this was one of many ordeals to which the new cadets, or plebes, could be subjected by those who've been longer at the Academy.

What's on the menu at the Naval Academy?...........

Seems to be quite a queue for lunch!!

Our own lunch wasn't quite so organised but we did entertain Joe at one of the better park benches on the Annapolis waterfront with a take-out sandwich.   We sure knew how to entertain in style!

After focusing so much on other methods of transport, it was time to put Joe back in his natural element and head to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, to view their extensive collection of historic trains and take a trip on one of the exhibits.   The train trip seemed to take us to nowhere and back again but we did take in some of the less scenic parts of Baltimore on the way!  To top off the visit in style, we indulged in another picnic, this time sitting on a glamorous kerb beside the wheels of a huge locomotive.   Of course, once we'd finished our snack, we noticed the picnic benches provided by the museum on the other side of the train!

OK guys, start chanting out the menu......

Joe in his natural habitat at the B & O!

We all enjoyed the B & O Museum so much that we decided to take a trip to their sister museum at Ellicott City, the oldest railroad station in America and debatably (according to our resident expert) in the world.   Apparently it all depends on whether you count horse drawn trains..........

Before Joe had to fly home, we managed to squeeze in a couple of parties.    The first planned party, the crab-fest at Greg and Shirley's house, where Joe was to be introduced to the local seafood delicacy, was to be cancelled due to two small problems.   The first was a complete lack of crabs, as Greg's crabbing friend had been out of luck.   The second issue was a complete lack of electricity due to Tropical Storm Ernesto.   Eating crabs was tricky enough but eating them in the dark???

Woody and Janine's daughter, Heidi, invited us all along to her fun birthday party at her house where delicious barbecue food was enjoyed by all.   The following day we were all entertained at Stephanie's house for dinner, together with her friend Glenys, whose fluent knowledge of the Welsh language put those people from Wales to shame!   

There was just time for one last brunch at Denny's and it was time for Joe to head back to the UK.   We were delighted that he'd had such a fantastic time and enjoyed a taste of wonderful American hospitality from all our great friends...... 

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