Musings of Captain Justice a/k/a Gil Jones

The Great Winter Odyssey – Washington D.C.

The great winter odyssey — or was it?

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A couple of things coalesced to lead to the “Great Winter Odyssey” of ’16. Jen and I had acquired the motorhome in October, we were to go to her family in Memphis for Christmas, and I had never had a “sibling adventure” with my sister, Jan. Thus a plan was hatched to go to Memphis, Jen to come back in the Honda and then I would proceed to pick up Jan in Bedford, PA and proceed to Washington, D.C.


There was route planning to do, a lot of thinking about cold weather (and the snow and ice that could portend), clothing considerations, food and water both enroute and in D.C., and a million other things that raced through my mind in the weeks leading up to “lift-off.”

Route planning resulted in a new Garmin DriveSmart 60LMT, a subscription to RVTRIPWIZARD planning software,  a copy of Mountain Directory (East and West)for a close inspection of steep grades, a download of the Low Clearances POI database for the Garmin (here is why that’s important), an app to find Walmarts that allow parking overnight, subscriptions to several RV-related websites for RV park reviews and a host of tips and techniques.

I added insulation to the water bay with the fresh water tank and the water pump, and also in the city water connection bay. 12v DC trouble lights with 50W bulbs were placed in each of those places and wired directly into the Arctic Pak circuits to add heat and remote thermometers were placed in each area. The route and stops were studied, plotted and revised ad nauseum.

To Bedford

After Christmas Jen headed home with her sister and niece in tow and I headed Easterly. A couple of long days and I was there. On arrival I was greeted by the familiar narrow streets of Bedford that I last saw when driving a 26′ Penske full of Jan’s household goods just a year before.

A nice night was spent at Marilyn’s with friends, food and celebration.


The next day Jan and I made some last-minute “laying in” of provisions and headed Eastward once again. I arrived in Bedford on December 28 and we headed to D.C. on the 29th. Friendship Village in Bedford is a quaint and very quiet park where I staged myself for a bit.


View from typical spot.

Complete with ducks!

Granted, it was the beginning of serious winter in PA but I would have thought there would be a few more RVs in the park. But I did have company in the form of beautiful ducks.

I never did hit bad weather on the trip to Bedford, for which I will be eternally grateful. Having spun a Mazda Miata on the ice a couple of years earlier, I was almost in rigors thinking about my 24,000 pound beast on ice, or even snow. I felt that I was prepared in my route planning and that I had provisions sufficient to wait out a storm for a few days. Not having to go beyond preparation was a blessing.



We arrived at our temporary home spot on the 29th, the Cherry Hill Park which proved to be a fantastic homebase for our days in “the City.”  One of the best features of Cherry Hill is the Metro Bus that has a stop right in the Park and runs on the hour for most of the day. We took the bus to the train and into the city and back again. A single metro pass took care of both conveyances.

Learning about the train

Instincts are an interesting feature of the human mind and body. I had with interest, carefully, about the subway trains and that when the door closed, it closed. I watched for a couple of days how people really needed to expedite getting on and off and unlike the nice bus drivers who would lower the bus for someone with impaired movement to get on and off, there was no such person watching the train cars. So the morning that Jan moved a little slower than I, and I exited to the station platform before she made it to the door, I instinctively reached for the door as it closed between us. My first thought — the one right after quickly retrieving my arm — was that she had left her cell phone in Bedford and was not going to be able to phone me, from wherever she was going to wind up. Hopefully, I thought to myself, my very impractical little sister would work it through logically and find the simple solution. I had to wait only about 10 minutes on the other side of the platform before she stepped out of the next arriving train with a grin on her face.

The tourist thing

After all, being tourists was the entire mission. Each day was met eagerly with plans being laid for the day’s assault on the city. The first bus would depart at 9:00AM and we were on it, armed with our brochures and leaflets. It was December 30. First stop, the Air & Space Smithsonian. Of course. That was a major goal of mine and, frankly, I was in charge — at least Jan let me think I was. There are way too many photos to post here and you can Google it better, but I have to say that I was not disappointed in this, my first trip here. Another goal would be the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport.

We attempted to catch the National Archives on the way back — lot’s of walking — but the lines were unbearable so we ducked off elsewhere. Then came New Year’s Eve. I don’t recall ever spending NYE with my sister in the past — although certainly we had done so at some point — and it felt a bit odd. The next morning I realized that the odd feelings were more attributable to the cold/flu I had picked up that anything else. There we were, miles from my doctor, in the motorhome and recall, Jennifer had the Honda — the usual TOAD as the tow vehicle is called. An internet search found a couple of “Doc in a Box” clinics open so a trip was possible. Knowing nothing about Uber or Lyft, I downloaded the Lyft app, had a driver at my doorstep in no time and after a quick trip to the Doc, a short trek across the parking lot to the CVS for dispensing of drugs and another Lyft “home” and I was fixed up. We made it to the National Archives and then some that day but it was a short day.

New Year’s Day found us at the Museum of Natural History. Including the usual “old bones” stuff and the gorgeous live butterfly exhibit. That was a lot of fun as they tried to land on us and flit about. The photos don’t do it justice.

January 1 brought us to the National Art Gallery where, of course, my artist sister was in hog heaven. As it turned out, there was a marvelous exhibit just ending of the sketch books that many of the Dutch artists used to plan their paintings, displayed next to the resulting painting — sometimes just a photo of it but often the original painting. And I thought they just picked up a brush and started laying on the colors! Jan knew better.

We also did the monument tour and were able to see most of them adequately for full appreciation of the past, and the wisdom, represented there. Each has its own beauty and charm. Each evokes different feelings, all cloaked with an undying appreciation for our past — both early and more recent. However, I think I have to stick with the Lincoln as my favorite.


The winter storm

My recent purchase of the motorhome, together with my Amateur Radio Skywarn training on top of my past weather skills as a pilot, had me watching the storm that was gathering in the Midwest and moving Eastward. On the 2nd we woke up the the front edge of that weather with the light pitter-patter of rain on the roof of the RV. Taking the weather into account together with my recent trip to the doctor, I decided we needed to leave a day earlier than planned. So sad, as we really needed several more days there — at a minimum! We made the best of that decision by getting to the National Air and Space Museum at Dulles on the way home. “Discovery” was No. 1 on my list and it did not disappoint. We tried to see every airplane and component and took pictures until the Samsung was gasped for electrons. But alas, another venture with inadequate time.


(more to come)




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