A Tall Ship and Humidty to Sail Her By

This week, the Hermione was docked in Alexandria, Virginia for tours and picture taking and lots and lots of people:

Hermione, an exact replica of the ship that brought the Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington with news of full French aid in 1780, turning the tide of the American Revolution.

I was hoping to get a ticket for a tour on board, so I left home at 7:30 and got there probably about eightish.  There were already 200 people in line for the stand-by tickets.

It was also headed into the eighties and very humid.  So I walked around and took pictures of the ship.

18th century ship

It was a lot bigger than I expected.  There is truth to John Masefield’s poem line, “And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”  The masts were easily three stories tall.

18th century replica ship

It was so big I was having trouble getting a picture of the whole ship.

Full shot of 18th century ship

Aelxandria overlooks the Potomac River

Time traveling back to the Colonial Era

One of the really nice things about the Washington Metropolitan area is that there’s a lot you can see without necessarily going on a long, expensive trip.  I usually dislike going into Washington, DC, where all the tourists tend to be, not to mention even drive through it to get to Maryland.  It’s because the roads are convoluted to navigate, and the city is hungry to give tickets for anything.

But Virginia has many different places to visit that I have sometimes dig around to find.  Not all of them are advertised.  Some are free, some cost $3-$15, so it can depend both on budget and what I want to see that day.  Last weekend, I happened to run across a community advertisement for the Claude Moore Colonial Farm.  They were having a Market Fair on Saturday and Sunday.  I decided to go Sunday because I figured they wouldn’t be crowded.

The Claude Moore Colonial Farm is located in McLean, Virginia, right near the CIA.  I believe I drove right behind the CIA to get to it!  At least I couldn’t explain why there were gates and armed guards.

When I got to the entrance, I was shocked to the parking lot was packed.  People were parking on the grass and the shoulder.  I drove several times through the parking area, trying to find a spot that wouldn’t block someone in.  I finally found one, and this guy pulled in beside me.  We’re looking around, wondering if it would work.  My concern was someone parking behind me and blocking me in.

Keeping my fingers crossed, I heard up to the entrance and paid my $7.  During regular events, the site is a historic demonstration of a family working a farm.  They rotate the crops four times a year, so visitors can get a different experience from summer to winter.  The family dresses up in clothing of the time and interacts with the visitors.

The Market Fair was probably more like what you would see in a fantasy novel.  It consisted of market stands set up in the area, though in this case, they were selling things like perfume soaps and men’s products.  The stands were manned by volunteers in period costumes.  There was also a puppet show and a juggler for the kids.

The chicken was cooked on a giant spit, and corn was boiled in a pot over an open fire.  The corn was absolutely delicious.  It was sweet and succulent.  It was also very popular.  They kept running out!

Chicken roasting on an outdoor spit as smoke blows out.
Chicken roasting on a spit.

After that, I wandered down and checked out the farm.  It’s quite large, which is good to get walking in while enjoying the history.

I found a pen with pigs in it.  They didn’t seem at all bothered by the humans gawping at them, and I was able to reach down and touch one (the one on the right in the photo).  His/her fur was very sparse, almost wiry.  Not soft at all.

Down angle of two pigs in a pen.
Pigs in a pen


I wandered inside one of the buildings.  A woman was at a table making a simple cake while a fire roared in the fireplace.  I checked out the contents of the pot in the fireplace, and she told me it was an apple chutney.  She was going to use a dutch oven for the cake and put it on the fire (enlarge the photo so you can see the chutney).

A pot of apple chutney hangs over a fire in a fireplace
Apple chutney cooking

On the way to it, I spotted another place that I’m going to have to drop in and visit, Turkey Run Park. So more exploring is in order!

A conveniently timed The Daily Post Prompt:

‘Tis the season for road trips — if time and money were out of the equation, what car-based adventure would you go on? (If you don’t or can’t drive, any land-based journey counts.)

Caught in a storm at Arlington Cemetery

Most of the time in Northern Virginia, you can tell when a storm is coming.  It’s summer, and a thunderstorm usually comes when humidity is heavy in the air.  It feels almost like the air is about to burst open.  Then the winds come in, and the trees sway.  The black clouds come in with the winds, and then the rain starts.

But I was visiting Arlington Cemetery in late November, well after summer and nearing the end of fall.  I’d just gotten my new tennis shoes that were made for flat feet, so I was partially trying out how well they work.  But I was also doing research for a writing project.  The very striking thing about the cemetery is that the graves all identical.  Go to a church cemetery and the graves are all different shapes and size.   But at Arlington Cemetery, it’s an overwhelming number of rows of white grave markers.

Because I was so early, workers were out spraying down the graves with a high powered hose.  All the grave stones are white, and all but the oldest are a pristine white from all this cleaning.  Another worker was using a leaf blower to clean the many two lane roads throughout the grounds.

I visited John F. Kennedy’s grave, and then watched the soldiers standing their watch at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  This is a very special duty for the soldiers, and they’re out there no matter what the weather is.  Only three of the sentinels have been women, the first in 2001.

The sharp clear notes of a bugle drew me to a military funeral for an enlisted soldier.  The bugle has a certain kind of lonely, mourning quality to it.

As the ceremony ended, I noticed that, in the distance, the clouds had gone black, contrasting with the sharp blue of the autumn sky.  It hadn’t been like that when I’d arrived, but now it looked like something evil was coming in over the land.

I started back, but I’d really walked further than I thought (the shoes were very comfortable).  While I had a jacket on, suited for the cooler temperatures of autumn in Virginia, I didn’t have an umbrella.  I walked quickly, but the storm clouds loomed overhead, and then it started to pour.  All I could really do was keep walking.  It was a cemetery.  There wasn’t exactly places to duck under to wait the storm out.  By the time I got back to my car, I was a soggy mess.

And then the storm disappeared, like it had never happened.

A behind the scenes of the sentries for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:


From The Daily Post prompt:

You’re at the beach with some friends and/or family, enjoying the sun, nibbling on some watermelon. All of a sudden, within seconds, the weather shifts and hale starts descending form the sky. Write a post about what happens next.

The Magic of Rain

We just had several days of rain and thunderstorms in Washington, DC.  The humidity gets so high during the summer that the rain just bursts in a thunderstorm like it’s releasing all this pressure.

It’s also the opposite of where I grew up, which was in Los Angeles.  If you’ve never been there, Los Angeles doesn’t get much rain.  In fact, I gave my father a hard time when he drove up to where I was stationed in Washington State because he couldn’t figure out why his windshield wipers were smearing.  He’d had so little experience with rain that he didn’t realize they’d dry rotted!

The rain in Washington, DC, comes first with clouds that roll in, gray deepening to almost black.  They might be like that all day, but there’s a point somewhere late in the day that the humidity seems like it’s reached a peak.

At that point, the winds start kicking up, always ahead of the storm.  The leafy green trees sway back and forth.  Screech!  Thin branches scratch the windows.

And, as the storm starts to advance, it gets darker outside.  Sometimes the middle of the day can look like evening.

The first drops of rain splatter the windows.  But the asphalt outside isn’t wet yet, and the cars don’t have on their windshield wipers (or lights, for that matter.  We have a lot of drivers who will drive in heavy rainstorms without lights).

I look away for a while, then look back and it’s raining so hard that the drops are hitting the ground and bouncing up. My area is all hilly, so the rain runs in streams down the sidewalks.  Washington, DC, is a city of stone, so there’s not many places for all this water to go, except to flood.

Soon after the rain starts, thunder rumbles across the sky like someone hurling around one of those metal trash cans.   Sometimes there’s a bright flash of light from the lightning, but most often, the show is somewhere else.

Then the clouds march off, and the sun peaks out.  An hour later, it’s like it didn’t even rain.

Turtles in Pollen (Photo)

Turtles sun themselves on a pond

Today is World Turtle Day, so I’d thought I’d share a photo of some local turtles.  This was taken at the Mason District Park in Annandale, where they have a man-made pond with lily pads, turtles, and even a bullfrog, which I’ve seen, but I’ve sure heard.

I admit it — I’m fascinated by turtles.  They’re one of the few critters that I can watch for a while and just take in the peacefulness of the place around me.   They don’t seem at all bothered by the humans gawping at them, like the two kids who wandered up and squealed at them while I was taking this.

The green dust floating on the surface of the pond is pollen.  It’s not all that bad; last week the turtles were covered with it, too!

Staying Warm in the Military Class B’s

This morning when I went out to my car, it was 7.  Yup, single digits.  The last time it was this cold in Washington, DC, I was still in the military and finding out that the uniforms weren’t so good at keeping me warm.  I am so grateful I can bundle myself up the way I need to.

The class B uniform was the worst.  There’s a picture of it here.  The one on the left is how we wore the shirt then, though, from what I understand, the army made some modifications to it.  If we put the green coat on over the shirt, it becomes a class A uniform.  We didn’t have hats like in the picture though — that’s pretty fancy, and as I recall about $40 (in 1990s).  We also couldn’t wear it generally because we had to match everyone else.  So we all wore the envelope hat, which was never very good at staying put.

The uniform was also made to look good, not for warmth.  We could wear a black trench coat in bad weather. It did have a furry insert, but it wasn’t that warm.  Then, it didn’t matter because of the shoes.

Women had two options: High heels and low quarters.  Let me confess.  I have wide feet.  I also have flat feet.  I could never find any pumps that fit.  Usually they were too big in the heel while my toes were jammed in the pointy part.  Three minutes, and I was begging to put the shoes out of my misery.

Low quarters were better (this newer picture shows they’ve improved the shoes) — but it was like walking outside barefoot in snow.  Absolutely no protection.  I think the guys had it better because they could wear socks.  The women then weren’t supposed to.  We had to wear nylons with it. (Don’t know if that’s true now.)

I ended up standing in deep snow in the above uniform and pushing a van that had gotten stuck.

Ever get a shoe wet with snow when you’re wearing nylons?  It’s a very special experience.

It’s one thing I don’t miss about the military.  Tomorrow it’ll be 11 out.  Definitely burrowing at home this weekend.

Fall Colors in Washington, DC

Usually we don’t get much of the fall colors in the Washington, DC area.  Either it rains too much and the colors are muddy, or it doesn’t rain enough, and the colors are dried out.  This year, the leaves have been spectacular.  My favorites have been the scarlet leaves, because the colors are so vivid.

A series of trees in blooms of scarlet red and pumpkin orange.
This tree hits all the glorious colors in nearby Glencaryln Park.


Close up of some flaming pink-red leaves
Close up of some flaming pink-red leaves



Reflection of the fall colors in Holmes Run.
Reflection of the fall colors in Holmes Run.