Saturday, January 18, 2014

Getting Away (at least a little bit)

The kids have an extra-long MLK Weekend this year, since it coincides with the end of the school's marking period, so they tacked on a grading/report-card-prep day for teachers. I might have mentioned that we've been experiencing some...frigidness...lately, and the prospect of four days trapped in my house with the family--no matter how much I love them--made me want to run screaming for the hills. somewhere--ANYWHERE--for a change of scenery and possibly a wee bit of excitement. (Trust me, at this time of year, it really doesn't take much to amuse me...) I know I've also lamented the fact that with all of our exploring over the years, we've pretty much covered....everything I can think terms of historical/scenic/etc field trip sites. But I was undaunted ("desperate") as I dug deeply into the archives ("Google") to figure out somewhere to blow town for an overnight mini-trip. And what did my research uncover? Winchester, Virginia. (I know, right--super thrilling! Or...acceptable...told ya I'm not so picky these days...)

Originally I informed Husband I was planning to go it alone, but then I decided give the kids the opportunity to join me. At first, they were, let's say "unenthused"...even with the Civil War Battlefield carrot I dangled in front of them. (Imagine, they didn't want to tromp around yet ANOTHER cemetery and group of cannons with me...go figure...) That is, until I mentioned that I'd found a hotel with not only free breakfast (which is an absolute requirement for us these days, what with two boys to feed first thing in the morning...and someone who demands immediately-available java...not naming names or nothin') but also (drum roll) a heated indoor pool! Yep, that's how cooped-up this Winter has them feeling; the very idea of swimming was enough to motivate them to accept the semi-educational stuff with good grace. (Also, between Husband and me, they might have inherited a super-strength "wandering gene"...) There was a slight blip in their compliance (actually, more like "Nooooooo, forget it, never!") when I confessed we would be traveling to that State-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, aka "The Bane of our Very Existence" (or, for the rest of you: Virginia). However, I regained their cooperation by assuring them that the directions suggested we navigate north toward Frederick first, then west to our destination....thereby skipping the dreaded 95-South-from-Hades (as it shall be known) altogether. all that remained to be done...was pack--which normally is a pretty easy endeavor, with fashion-indifferent, non-product-using boys. However, the weather forecast was calling for a...ahem...."brisk" high of 27* (dang it!) with wind chill temps significantly lower than that. Sigh. This leads to the burning (ha!) question: how many layers, exactly, can I pile onto my frame, in an attempt to preserve what little internal body heat I produce...and still manage to actually move around? (The answer, by the way, is: 4...) Meanwhile Husband and I counseled the polar-bear-boys--who would happily clothe themselves in shorts and t-shirts year-round--about how to select appropriate attire for, say, avoiding the fun combo of frostbite and/or hypothermia. Finally we were ready to get underway, through some wide-open countryside and pleasing vistas of...whatever roads we were on, I was just happy about the lack of traffic-nonsense.

We chugged into Old Town Winchester right about lunchtime (of course, this honestly could be any hour of the day or night, with Derek along) and got out of the car to seek a promising restaurant. However, the endeavor rapidly turned into "where can we get out of this gale...FAST?" Union Jack's (which oddly enough I've patronized Columbia, Maryland) fit the bill--yummy sandwiches paired with a huge heap of thick, crispy fries...mmm... Thus fortified, we gamely attempted to enjoy some of the atmosphere of the quaint little city...while shivering...and losing feeling in tender, exposed areas (poor ears and noses!). Mainly, we managed to admire a few of the stately brick buildings, and do a brief run-through of the National Cemetery, before we conceded defeat and headed off to find our hotel. Once we'd warmed up to room temperature again, the boys--in an almost astonishing display of goodwill--consented to try one more place before wrapping up the sightseeing portion of our day.

Since it was "right down the street" according to the chipper Front Desk clerk, we opted for Kernstown Battlefield. Happily, it was in fact located a short distance from our home base. Tragically, it was closed--front gates locked up tight--for the season. What the heck? In all the years I've been traipsing around visiting these kinds of parks, I think this is the very first time I've ever encountered one that was completely shut down for half the year. Thwarted by the Confederates, we returned to our hotel for the much-anticipated indoor pool party. Well, the boys splashed and frolicked...and I just sat in the nice, steamy room with them, relaxing. (A bathing suit in January? The very thought gives me chills...) Dinner at a local fast-food Chinese place called the Wok Zone, hot showers, a little ESPN, and then we'll hit the sack to rest up for the Second Battle of Winchester...I mean "Winchester Tourism, Day 2"! (I already checked, the OTHER two battlefields are open all year, so we're good...and we will lead the attack...right after our free breakfast buffet...and lots of hot beverages...)

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