92 Washington, DC to Dowry Creek, NC

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Reds, yellows and oranges highlighted trees that had turned as we headed north toward Rochester to see family and take care of some business. The bright colors were a lovely contrast to the more muted Fall colors surrounding the Chesapeake. We may have to find excuses in future years to head back through Pennsylvania and upstate New York just to get a taste of their great Fall colors.

We’d planned on a quick visit.; check on Cindy and Mike’s house construction– roof shingling almost complete; stay with Debbie and Jeff and get to know granddaughter Danielle a little better; stay with Linda and Steve while we met with a financial planner, then back to Odyssey in DC to be classic tourists. It almost worked.

Creeks, squeaks and groans Hollywood sound effects people would love to have accompanied each stroke on the hydraulic jacks. The sounds alone were worth staying the extra day to help. The floor above our heads groaned up another fraction of an inch as we pumped again on the jacks. Steve was leveling the second floor of an old farmhouse. I was helping. We raised one side over 6″ before reattaching the front of the house to the free floating joists. Previously attached cables kept the front wall from falling forward. I lag bolted the original hand-made angle iron brackets back in place to tie everything back together. Steve sistered in new joists to stiffen the spongy floor. It was quite a project and fun to help for a day.

The GPS sat on the dash, our laptop sat happily in the backseat reading its signals and tracking our movement against our preplanned route. About a minute before each route change, a computer voice announces the upcoming turn and then tells us how long to the next change. The system works great in open country where minutes pass between changes and there is no confusion regarding the upcoming intersection. It failed miserably in the heart of Washington where intersections are close together and where the computer voice description for an exit may not exactly match what is on the sign. We lost our way on three different occasions and each time heard the “Your are off the route, turn back” comment from our navigator in the backseat.

Annapolis drew us back. The powerboat show was in progress. and we couldn’t resist. Back we went to walk the docks to see what the latest in boats looked like. Last year we thought we were taking a chance when we decided to buy Odyssey. Now it’s evident catamaran trawler popularity is growing. We were flattered to find Endeavour passing out color reprints of the article we wrote for Power Multihulls magazine.

We lingered over dinner with Bob and Kristan off Sea Change. We’d met at Trawler Fest a week earlier. They live in Milwaukee, have their business just a few blocks from where Tranquility had been berthed but do their boating on the Chesapeake. Now in a cozy waterfront restaurant south of Annapolis we swapped impressions of the boat show, talked boats and caught up on what was happening in Milwaukee. We parted company with plans to meet again either in Florida or in the Spring when we come back through the Chesapeake.

Gone were the long lines and crowds we’d experienced in the Spring two years ago (Journal 36). We toured the Bureau of Engraving and Washington Monument without having to get free entry time tickets and with only short waits in lines. The White House line advertised as only a 45-minute wait stretched to almost two hours as the line was shut down for some VIP to enter or leave. Having spent time previously in the White House Visitors’ Center studying details, the actual historic rooms came alive and seeing history erased the boredom of the long wait.

Washington is a place of discovered pleasures and unexpected surprises. We wandered into a Smithsonian exhibit on pianos. Stretched out along the entrance hall was a dissected piano showing in detail all the components. We plucked the strings and worked the keys of large working models that demonstrated how modern and historic piano key hammers operate. And of course there were pianos–historic pianos, details about famous players, composers and more-even one of Liberace’s. We soaked up engineering, history, and personalities all mixed together in an absorbing presentation.

The Library of Congress had a newly opened exhibit of Herblock’s political cartoons spanning his 50-year career. It was interesting to see so much history in the form of cartoon comments and realize that in many cases not much has changed. The library wouldn’t let us leave, a display of memorabilia donated to the Library by Bob Hope brought back memories of many of his performances. Still trying to leave we were captured by a Thomas Jefferson exhibit. Details of his life and accomplishments led to the display of his entire 6,487 volume library that had become the Library of Congress after the first was burned by the British in the War of 1812. A second fire burned part of his library. Each book had a ribbon to designate whether the volume was original or a replacement. Blank books stood in for books missing from the collection and someone in Washington still searches to find and reacquire replacements for the missing volumes. The Library ate up our entire day before it let us escape.

We’d never heard of the National Building Museum but found it’s odd mix of Washington building history, mixed with offbeat displays such as a school of fish made from vicegrips, a wood lathe sculpture done completely in wood right down to the wooden power cord. Our discoveries like that went on for days.

New neighborhoods opened up as we went off in search of the Eastern Market. On weekends it overflows into the surrounding streets and schoolyard. On a perfect Fall day we rode bikes through falling leaves to Georgetown, past the National Cathedral and on to Rock Creek Park and the Zoo. Looking at the empty panda exhibit a zoo employee whispered that renovations are almost complete and a ‘surprise’ announcement would be made soon about Washington receiving new pandas from China.

A VIP motorcade snarled traffic as its motorcycle escort provided a non-stop passage through Washington to the White House. Even the marina saw the effects of official Washington. The Secret Service took over when President Clinton came down to spend the evening on the yacht, Sequoia, with some folks who paid $10,000 each to watch the second presidential debate with him.

Noisy Canada geese replaced the sounds of landing airplanes and street noise as we anchored for the evening on our way down the Potomac River. Gray clouds streaked the flaming red sunset. Odyssey sat motionless, her anchor line slack in the quiet water. We listened as the light slowly drained from the sky, and the geese quieted down. It was wonderful to be at anchor again.

Burned out from all our time ashore we anchored out for three days at Hampton. Once we came ashore for breakfast and a Sunday paper. Two days later we came in for supplies and haircuts. Between times we enjoyed the comforts of Odyssey reading, working on projects, relaxing and just staying home for a change. The next morning we were on the move again, looking forward to starting the ICW.

Perfect Paul, the name boaters have given the NOAA computer voice that broadcasts weather, added ‘gale warning’ and ‘intense low off Cape Hatteras to his morning weather broadcast as we prepared to cross Albemarle Sound. Winds were already building and the worst weather was due in 24 hours. Ruth called ahead and made a reservation for us at Dowry Creek Marina near Belhaven, NC. We’d tuck in and let the bad weather pass.

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