The first week of August found my daughter, husband, and I boarding an airplane with the final destination being Williamsburg, Virginia. Each year, my employer graciously allows me to attend a company paid anesthesia conference somewhere in the continental USA. This year I had chosen Virginia because my younger brother lives in that great state.
I had high hopes of also visiting a cousin in the area but unfortunately, he and his wife had plans to attend a wedding in Pennsylvania that weekend. I had already bought the plane tickets so I needed to come up with an alternative plan for the weekend before the conference started. I settled on a Bed & Breakfast in Appomattox, VA for our lodging. I had no idea how to say “Appomattox” and every time I wanted to explain to someone where we had been, I needed to appeal to my family, “How do you say that city name again?”
Close to Appomattox is a little town called Farmville. The drawing point to Farmville is a 2400 foot long railroad (now bike path) bridge that graces the treetops, 175 feet above the Appomattox River. It was built in the early 1900s using brick laid support piers. We stopped in the parking lot on Sunday morning and were met by a Park Ranger eager to take our $4 fee. I thought that was rather strange as no one in Minnesota charges to walk down a bike path. I soon came to learn, though, that nothing in Virginia is free. Any natural wonder or the road leading to it must be profited from. It was amazing to see the engineering feats that men were able to accomplish even before the industrial age. After a hot sweaty mile walk to the bridge and back, we continued on to Richmond.
My hubby loves railroads and trains so I had picked out a Railroad Museum to stop at in Richmond. As we got closer and closer to the museum address, the industrial buildings became more dilapidated and many were abandoned. I began to think that this was not the best part of Richmond. We did find the little museum nestled in an old abandoned railway station close to the James River. What was even more fascinating about this place was that a big concrete wall rose up along the river and ran for miles in either direction. When asked about it, the man in the railway museum explained that it was a flood retention wall. When the James River becomes angry and rises out of its banks, the city will shut the gates over the roads and contain the river, thereby preventing flooding of the town. We walked up the steps to the top of the flood retention wall which afforded us a great view of the town in all directions. I thought about Minnesota and North Dakota in the spring when so many of the rivers flood and wondered why no one in my neck of the woods had thought about doing something similar.
After another short stop at the Aviation Museum in Richmond, we continued on to Williamsburg. Living in Minnesota, we forget that the east is a crazy man’s land on the roads. Cars flying by at 70 miles per hour on 4 and 5 lane roads tends to unnerve my husband. As he usually drives and I navigate, I keep the map in my lap and instruct him of each successive turn as needed. Sometimes, there is a last minute, “Which way do I go?” followed by “I don’t know.” Or “Turn right here.” where we have 2 lanes of traffic to cross to get to the “right here”. Our car has no GPS and we have no smart phones.
As we are getting closer to Colonial Williamsburg, I consult the directions given to us by the anesthesia seminar company. They say, “Follow route 143 to the second traffic light and bear right onto Route 132Y and follow the signs to Colonial Williamsburg.” What the directions forget to tell us is that every street we try to take becomes a dead end at Colonial Williamsburg. We have an address for the hotel but end up going around and around trying to find a way through the historic part of the town. Every street is blocked off. We finally do what every male driver hates to do. I insist that we stop and ask. This does help us find our hotel but by now, we are totally exasperated. At the seminar, I ask one of my colleagues if they had trouble finding the hotel.
“Oh, we just followed the GPS directions and didn’t have any problem.”
Maybe, it is time to join the modern world as we manage to get lost every time we come back into Williamsburg from our daytime adventures. I keep hoping we can figure out the roads in this town by the time we leave.
Each seminar day lasts only until 1pm so we have the afternoons to do fun things. My plan for Monday is to book a sunset sail out of Yorktowne on the York River but I need to make the reservations early if we are to get a seat. I decide that I will take my wallet with credit card, the company phone number, and my phone with me to class. That way, I can call after the charter company opens at 7 am and not have to run back to our room which is a good block away. Confident in my plan, I walk through sweltering heat to the conference center. There a good breakfast is waiting. After breakfast, I decide to make my phone call while waiting for the seminar to start. I dig through my backpack but cannot find the paper with the Sailing Charter phone number. “Ugh!!” I bet I left it on the desk and never picked it up. I decide there is nothing to do but trot back to my room on the other side of the hotel campus. Having put on a sweater to stave off freezing in the conference room, I soon begin to sweat as I walk rapidly though the early morning humidity. I swipe my hotel card to get in the building door but the light only blinks red. I swipe it several times with the same result. By now, I am totally exasperated and irritated. It worked last night. Finally, I realize there is nothing to do but to walk back to the main hotel desk. By now, streams of water run down my face and I am steaming on the inside as well as the outside.
“Your card became demagnetized,” is the nonchalant conclusion of the desk attendant. “That happens sometimes when it gets next to a cell phone or ipad.”
I only want to scream. Who doesn’t have a cell phone or an ipad? What I planned as a calm peaceful morning has been upended by a stupid card. After another rapid walk back to our hotel room into which the card now allows me entry, I am successful in booking a seat for all of us on the evening sunset cruise.
Other than melting into small puddles in the 90 degree heat, the sunset sail turns out to be beautiful and relaxing. God’s painting of the sky as the sun sets makes all the earlier frustration worth it.
To be continued…