Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We are now on Twitter

I never thought I'd give in but after Koki Smith - a friend in the neighborhood and a web genius - gave me a tutorial last Friday on how to enter Twitterdom, I caved in. I am now contactable @juliaduin. Which is a Twitter address, I think. You can see my Twitter home page here.
Of course I have no idea how to work this new technology but it's like the iPhone; buy now, figure it out later. Which is also why I just bought "iPhone: The Manual" or something like that. It cost me plenty at Barnes & Noble.
Other big news today is I did not get selected for a jury. For the past two months, have been dreading this day as I really didn't want to get roped into a trial. Several of us were taken into a room where we were questioned by a judge re our participation in a civil suit having to do with a car accident. But I was not one of the lucky finalists. Must say there were about 150 of us crammed into the jury room at the Prince George's County courthouse this morning BUT the surroundings were humane. We were allowed to bring in a lunch, store it in a fridge, use a microwave, sip free coffee and use our lap tops. Much nicer than the Fairfax County courthouse where they berate you if you so much dare to walk in with a cell phone or computer that has a camera attached.
Above photo is of Miss Veeka posing on a swinging bridge that we found up in the mountains.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Virginia mountain high

Well, we did escape to the mountains of western Virginia - not WEST Virginia, but Highland and Bath counties which are in western Virginia. I'd always driven through those counties on Routes 39 or 250 but hadn't really stopped there to see some of their charms. The last time I drove back from West Virginia (where I've done quite a bit of exploring), I swore I'd return to the "drive-by" portions of west Virginia.
And so we did. The top photo is of Veeka seated at our B&B, a paper airplane on the table. She learned how to fly one of these contraptions during our stay, an accomplishment that delighted her to no end.
The bottom photo is of Veeka posing at a mountain pass near the entrance to Highland County near where Confederate troops dug in for a nasty winter until the Union guys dislodged them. Didn't know that this region was a major thoroughfare for troops back then as there was a road through those parts that ended up in Parkersburg, WV. Then we came to our place for the next three nights: Laurel Point Bed & Breakfast just outside of Monterey, a very small town that is the tourist center for the county. My goodness, what a stunner of a B&B. We pulled up around the curve on the gravel road leading up to the place only to see a 180-degree swath of gorgeous blue ridges. Folks I talked with in town told me the B&B has "the best view in the county" and I think they're right.
Mike and Lorraine White, the hosts, were as nice as could be and the first night, I woke up at some ungodly hour and decided to go out and look at the stars, which of course were gorgeous. Couldn't sleep so sat out on the patio to watch dawn arrive, accompanied by the family dog. As the day progressed, Mike took Veeka and I on a tour of this lovely property on 104 acres to show us the Scottish highland cattle (furry beasts with quite a rack of horns) next to his large garden. Eventually we set off to explore and got lost, ending up at a charmer of an Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd a few miles north of Monterey in the tiny village of Blue Grass. (See photo of church with red door). So we wandered in and got to do Morning Prayer, as there's no regular priest within miles - nearest one is 2 hours away in Harrisonburg. The natives were friendly and everyone liked Miss Veeka who behaved rather well.
We drove some more, ending up near the Homestead, a large resort in Hot Springs. We decided to go high culture, attending a chamber music concert at Garth Newel, a high falutin music center just north of the Homestead. Again, Veeka was very good sitting through some of the weirdest compositions I've heard in a long time. They had all the esoteric stuff that Sunday but at least lemonaide and cookies were served. On the way back I got lost on a country road in a thunderstorm but finally landed on a road along the Cowpasture River in the early evening twilight.
After a second night at the B&B at 3,000 feet, we met one of the couples from the church at Evelyn's Pantry - the local hangout - for lunch, then headed for some water. Eventually ended up at Lake Moomaw, a great mountain lake nearly on the West Virginia state line. Took forever to get there but Veeka loved dashing into the water and there was almost no one else there. I noticed this quite a bit during our three days in the area. Highland County is not exactly awash with tourists. Our first night there when we had dinner at the Highland Inn, only two other tables were occupied. However, as I looked for maps of the area and brochures on things to do, I found both hard to find and not well organized. Local road maps were very approximate. There was no staffed chamber of commerce office that I could find anywhere. I had to use several maps to find my way around country roads in these places and I got lost more than once. Plus, especially on Sundays, restaurants in Monterey just shut down and we had the worst time finding dinner. Finally Veeka and I had to just make do with Dove Bars found at the local BP gas station.
Our final day, we had a delightful visit to the Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs, which are large octagonal buildings over hot springs. Thomas Jefferson supposedly spent time here which seems astonishing when you realize how isolated this area is. It took me many hours to get here by car. I can't imagine trying to get there by horse. Anyway, Veeka had the greatest time splashing about and actually getting her swimming strokes down with the help of a floatie stick. She did not want to leave. I wished we had stayed there, as a thunderstorm followed us nearly all the way home. No matter whether I drove east or north, I battled hours of nasty, heavy rains almost until I reached the Beltway.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Going to the mountains

Pictured here is Miss Veeka on a road trip we took a few weeks ago at the eastern entrance to I-68, which is the back way to Pittsburgh. On Saturday we're heading to the mountains of western Virginia for a few days. I've always wanted to spend more time in Highland and Bath counties which are just stunning in the beautiful mountain views and drives. Soooo, found a B&B that takes kids and costs less than $100 a night and so off we go.
People ask how the jobhunting is going. There are some flashes of hope but it being summer, everyone is away or just coming back or just leaving for somewhere. I spent much of this week picking up some freelancing, trying to figure out how to get unemployment benefits through the DC government's web site and wrestling with the COBRA folks re health benefits. The premium I am now having to pay is pretty stunning. Can't do that for too many months.
And so I am taking a few days off from all that.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July 4 at the beach

Once a year we try to get to the seashore so I thought this year I'd try something different: going to Rehoboth over the Fourth of July weekend. I'm glad we went but a lot of collateral damage came with going at such a time.
First, we chose to be there during a heat burst that struck the Washington area with 106-degree temps. Come to think of it, maybe we did well to be on the beach at that time. Back at home the local water authority decided to levy water restrictions on 2 Maryland counties, including mine, meaning that when I got home tonight, some of the nearly $500 I planted in landscaping this spring is in danger of dying. Yes, there are water restrictions in place during a HEAT WAVE. Someone wasn't thinking when they decided that one. I am sure some folks are quietly hosing down their back yards but mine looks very peaked right now.
Anyway, Miss Veeka and I left Friday for Rehoboth to spend a few days at the Drift Inn, a child-friendly B&B that's about 100 yards from the beach and which is neat and clean and very cheap! We did all the usual stuff: Amusement park rides, lots of beach time, swims in the very cold surf, watching the jellyfish wash in with the tide, lots of ice cream consumed and plenty of restaurants sampled. The night of the 4th, the fireworks were on the beach just down the street from our lodging so we all parked our lawn chairs on the sidewalk and watched. Well, almost all of us. Veeka dashed inside and I found her curled up under the sheets in our bed.
The folks at the B&B loved Veeka and the shot of her in the bike thingy is with Judy - a nice woman from Pennsylvania who took a liking to the tyke - and spoiled her rotten. Veeka didn't pull too many of her let's-run-down-the-beach-and-see-if-mommy-can-catch-me routines mainly because my left foot is still not so great and I yelled at her if she wandered off. She loved being her little princess self - see her pose beneath the umbrella - in the sands.
By Tuesday morning, we were ready to pull out which is when I discovered my car would not start. I spent all day - dripping with sweat - trying to figure out what was wrong as the battery was new. Waited for HOURS for the tow truck from my insurance company, which never arrived. Finally broke down and ordered a tow from elsewhere, but the car didn't get to a garage until late in the afternoon. By then I and several helpful folks from the B&B had discovered even more problems with car, ie it was leaking anti-freeze everywhere. Great.
So Veeka and I arrived on the beach at 5 pm. which is a lovely time of day; the air turns bluey in the late afternoon sun, the crowds have left and the water had finally warmed up to being swimmable. But to my surprise, Veeka had no interest in the water and just sat on the beach and pouted. Or sang and danced. A friend of mine told me later that her kids basically get bored with the beach after the third day which amazes me in that I used to spend weeks at the shore as a kid. But the novelty had worn off with Veeka who basically wanted to either watch TV or her videos. The fact she had no one to play with was a factor.
So we sat around the B&B all day waiting for the garage to call me back. When they didn't by 4 p.m., one of the angels at the B&B - name's Kelly and she's the owners' daughter - called the cell phone of the garage owner to find out what was what. Then she drove us to the garage with all our luggage. Yes, the car could run, they told me. Problem was, the cooling fans were not working. Just turn off the AC and drive over 35 mph, they told me. Do not under any circumstances idle in traffic more than 5 minutes or the engine will overheat.
WELL, I about collapsed in terror - the thought of a car breakdown on the Bay Bridge uppermost in my mind. Plus I knew the insurance company was none too quick with furnishing tow trucks. Apparently tow companies all over the Delaware peninsula were busier than one-armed paper hangers all weekend long because everyone's cars were breaking down. Kelly, who had not struck me as a particularly devout person on first impression, lectured me on trusting God to get home. My knees quaked. Put me to shame, she did. So we piled in with the windows down and I flew home in 2 1/2 hours through Delaware and eastern Maryland with no problems. Veeka didn't even complain about the windows being down or about being hot, even when her DVD player shut down in the middle of "Finding Nemo."
Thursday morning, el carro heads for the Subaru dealer.