Sunday, July 13, 2008

Back From Vacation

Oh, boy. It's been a few weeks since I've last posted. Frankly, we've just been too busy to post very much (although Cheshirewoodgie, aka Lauren) has been exploring the Apple iPhone App Store, loading her iPod Touch (which I'll eventually inherit) with apps. She's testing an iPhone application (see above) to let us make blog postings (and post photos) on the road. For this, two things have to happen: 1)The app has to be updated to work with Flickr, so we can upload photos, and 2) Her back-ordered iPhone with camera has to come in.

Since we were out of town during the Friday iPhone launch, "Look, woodgie, there's an AT&T store!" was one of my teases, while "I want my #$#$#$=!!! iPhone" was one of her regular comments. Now that the phone's been ordered (and is on back-order, with the 2nd million customers who didn't get theirs in the first run on Friday), it's down to, "it's still on back-order" grumble, grumble, grumble.

So, last week, we headed out to Blacksburg/Christiansburg, VA, where we went to help Lauren's friend and colleague Ceclia Hayhoe celebrate her 60th birthday and her tenure approval at Virginia Tech. We'll have pictures from the week, as soon as Cecila's daughter, Janice, has her pictures developed from that weekend.

Where to start?

The trip itself was fine, although we discovered that we were going to be in for an interesting flight when our outgoing flight from KC to O'Hare was delayed, first by heavy winds at O'Hare, and then by the approach radar at O'Hare temporarily going out (where were the backups???). Note that I had flown a few weeks ago to Richmond for my work-related trip, and that trip was very uneventful, but given that TSA had upgraded the threat level to Orange the day of our trip, the staffers working our check-in seemed very harried and tense ... I don't blame them. Depending on the airline, it's hard enough to fly these days without being inconvenienced in some fashion, and lumping on a higher security alert than normal only added to that.

Still, we made it through to O'Hare, only to find out that, once again, my bad weather average in flying through there struck yet again: we were concerned we were going to miss our outgoing flight to Roanoke, and we did ... after a round of Thursday-evening lake-effect storms, our flight was delayed. Then delayed again. Then delayed once more around 9:30 pm, when it was canceled.

Fortunately, we made it to a customer service station before the bad lines formed, got rebooked for the 6:00 am flight, and then set off to find a hotel, with Lauren wishing that O'Hare would upgrade their signage for directing people from terminals to hotel shuttlebus stops. Even so, we managed to get to our shuttlebus and off to a nearby Marriott.

The following morning's flight was uneventful, and we made it into Roanoke in good time, snagged our rental, and were soon tooling down I-81 toward Blacksburg/Christiansburg. I must admit, being from a very flat portion of Southeast Kansas, I've never experienced actual mountains up close until then. I was like "wow ....", and my wife, who had lived in upstate New York for awhile near the Catskills, was like "What??? It's just mountains." When we have pictures back from the trip, there should be a pic of us standing at a nice overlook near the Blue Ridge Mountains, somewhere close to the former home of Confederate calvary leader Jeb Stuart.

Since we had been delayed Thursday, we were concerned that we were going to miss the events Janice had organized, but we made it to Cecila's house in time to join them for a trip into the mountains to Floyd, VA and the nearby shops and wineries, including Chateau Morrisette (home to the Black Dog and Our Dog Blue vintages), and to Villa Appalaccia, an up-and-coming small winery down the road. After checking out their shop and having lunch at Chateau Morrisette's wonderful restaurant, we had time for a winery tour and tasting. Later that evening, we stopped off in Floyd itself to visit the Floyd Country Store, which features a century-old tradition of live bluegrass music every Friday night on its performance stage. Prior to that, a stop at a local antique store led to Lauren's find of the trip: an authentic Victorian-era blouse which she hopes will form the basis of a Victorian Christmas set.

Saturday morning, we were left on our own until the party at the Inn at Virginia Tech (located off their alumni center), so we journeyed into Blacksburg to check out the Saturday morning farmers market, and from there, onto the Virginia Tech campus to tour the Smithfield Plantation. Admittedly, Lauren isn't a student of military history, so she was afraid that this was going to be a Civil War-battlefield-esque experience. Instead, we both enjoyed a Revolutionary War-era Southern plantation with a lot of home-life "how they lived in that era" history, which we both like to experience. What really got her attention was the garden spaces; I think she actually knew more about what they had in their gardens and why they had them then some of the interpreters that day.

That led us into the birthday celebration: held in one of the Inn's conference/banquet rooms, it was a very informal occasion, with "fun stations" to do scrapbook pages for a book for Cecila, a cariacture artist, who did cariacture pictures of all of us (the originals will go into the scrapbook, while we'll be provided with digital copies for ourselves), fun food (veggie burgers, hot dogs, and sides, plus the makings for root beer/cream soda floats), and a wandering magician/card artist/balloon-maker. Needless to say, everyone had a wonderful time.

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