I said I wasn't too good at sticking to these things. It's especially a problem because so much has happened in the last five weeks.
First off, the vacation was wonderful! I got up at 0300 so I could shower and drink coffee. Amber stayed up so she could make sure I woke up. She even made me breakfast.
We made it to Richmond with an hour to spare, which is pretty close for a 9 hour drive.. an 11% tolerance! We were both exhausted and strung out from the drive, so we took a nap. Later that night we explored Richmond a little and tried to find a grocery store. I wished I had realized that booze and condoms are just about impossible to find in Virginia! We got some simple groceries to keep in our cooler and we stayed in that night.
We slept in significantly, so we had to cut a lot of our activities for the day out. I revealed to Amber that we were going to Monticello, and she was elated. We left immediately, and it was quite a drive to Charlottesville, but after our trip the morning before, it was insignificant.
When we got there, it was almost 1500. I bought our tickets, and they gave my change back in $2 bills. I wish I had realized it before I spent them. ("So how many two dollar bills do we have?" "Oh.. umm... none, but we have a full tank of gas!") We took a small bus up to the house itself, and we took a guided tour. After we were set loose in the back yard, we looked at the servant's quarters, and then made our way to the graveyard.
It was excessively hot that day. The temperature was 105 F, but the heat index was 115 F! Amber was starting to feel a little ill after walking up the low but long hill from the cemetary. I tried to encourage her to walk through the gardens with me, but she needed to sit down and get some water. This was the second time she had felt ill since we got there. After the house tour, our first priority was to find water, and then we made our way to the servants' quarters.
After a bit in the shade, Amber felt moderately better. It was already 1630, and the place closed at 1700. I wanted to hit the gift shop before we left, so I coerced her into the gardens. "So it's been a wonderful four years together hasn't it?
When we got back, I set out to buy some booze, but my key just wouldn't turn in the ignition! A panicked call to my brother-in-law Don provided my solution: My car was likely parked on a slight incline, and I had not used the parking brake, therefore there was too much pressure on my regular brakes, so I could not depress them further to unlock the wheel, nor turn the key. I woke up Amber, and she started the car after I lifted it back to relieve the pressure. Wonderful!
I had, while mulling over possible solutions of my own, walked down to the state liquor store and back. It was only two blocks away. After I had my car back, I drove down to buy extra rechargable batteries for my camera, and I got a good discount on a SD card at Staples. I picked up some condoms, and some ibuprofen to help Amber with the mild heat illness she had.
Virginia is a great place, but the entire state is a hill, and everything smells like a barbecue. We had to leave it the third afternoon, but not before a stop at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. We watched two guys fire some muskets. It was neat. We passed up the Antietam Battleground (in the original plan) to try and make it to Gettysburg, PA (not in the original plan.) After a grueling mid-day drive, we missed visiting hours by over an hour. We got home around 2300, and I checked to see if I still owned anything. (Bad neighborhood)
I set up my computers, and coddled my crying cats, and then crashed hard on my own bed. What a week.
I waited to tell my family until I had a chance to tell my son in person the following Monday. His thoughts on the engagement: "I like it, and I'm excited!" When we took him to his mother's house later that evening, we decided to see my parents who live on that end of town. I called them, but they were at a restaurant (TGI Friday's) By the time my Dad passed the phone to my Mom, and she got outside where she could here me, I was already 90% of the way there. I told her my good news, and then pulled up next to her so Amber could show off her ring. My parents are kind of strange, so we weren't sure how they would react, but they were both overwhelmingly postive.
So, that's the vacation. Friends and school follow